Louisiana has resources in place to treat gambling addiction as sports wagering grows in popularity
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - People across the state have wagered nearly $1.5 billion on sports so far this year, according to Louisiana Gaming Board Chairman Ronnie Johns.
However, some believe there’s a major problem brewing amid this success.
“Right now, it’s the hype. It’s the hype. They’re getting them in and baiting them in. It’s the hype, but when it’s gone, watch what happens,” Matricia Green said.
Green is a licensed addiction counselor and a certified compulsive gambling counselor. She says the rise in popularity around sports betting will lead to more people falling into addiction, and she and other advocates are preparing for what’s to come.
“When you are dealing with a compulsive gambler, and if you don’t know how, you’re going to have a problem,” Green said.
State officials say this was a problem they anticipated when sports wagering was legalized, and they have put the tools in place to offer help.
“They are pulling these programs together because they know this is coming,” Green said.
The Louisiana Department of Health uses $2.5 million a year from the Compulsive and Problem Gaming Fund to finance different gambling addiction treatments across the state.
The resources, counseling and support are free to any state resident.
“It’s hard to create the awareness until there is a problem,” said Robert Henson from the Office of Behavioral Health. “We have the infrastructure in place, we’re ready, it’s just to get the word out to Louisiana residents that these services are available.”
Green is pleased with the state’s work, but she wants to see more. She wants to see leaders open more recovery facilities, hire more clinicians and offer training to employers so they can recognize the signs of addiction. As she continues to advocate, she wants people to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“There is help,” Green said.
As many as 280,000 Louisiana adults may be involved in problem gambling, according to a 2016 study conducted by the Office of Behavioral Health (OBH).
Click here for a list of gambling service providers.
Family, friends and those who are struggling with problem gambling are encouraged to call the Louisiana Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-877-770-STOP (7867).
For additional information and resources on problem gambling, visit ldh.la.gov/AddictionRecovery.
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