The state’s gambling helpline answered seven percent more calls last year than it did in 2011. That number has been on the rise for years.
A poor economy often results in more problem gambling, but Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling executive director Rose Gruber says increased accessibility to gambling also contributes: “No matter where you go you can gamble. You can gamble online, casinos, lottery, sports betting,” not to mention in bars, restaurants, and homes.
Because of this, the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling helpline continues to see more and more calls every year from gamblers and their family members.
The average gambling helpline caller has a $40,000 debt, although Gruber says it’s probably much higher. She says callers have generally hit rock-bottom financially and are often suicidal.
Also, Gruber says women and teens are gambling much more than they did in the past. She says this is the first generation of young adults that considers playing poker or gambling online a normal, everyday activity. “It’s easy to hide. We also know that parents are ok with, ‘Hey, my kids are playing poker in my basement on a Friday night with his friends. I know where they are, I know they’re safe.’ So they think they’re protecting them from other behaviors, we don’t want our kids doing, drinking, etc. In reality, it’s not, because if you have a kid at risk you put him in danger of becoming addicted to gambling.”
In addition to the gambling helpline, available at 1-800-426-2535, there are 68 Gamblers Anonymous groups around Wisconsin.