Early start to PA Gambling Problem Awareness Month

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)— Pennsylvania raked in a record $5.7 billion in gambling money in 2023, but with more people gambling there are more problems.

The rush of playing slots or winning a hand of cards, it’s the entertainment that goes into gambling.

But that fun could get addictive and put you in debt, which is why Governor Shapiro’s administration is getting an early start on National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

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“As with lots of different things, there are opportunities for people to take it beyond the original intent and when that does happen, we are here, all of us, to help folks in their recovery,” explained Kelly Primus, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol programs.

According to a report done by Penn State University, 16%of adult Pennsylvanians engaged in some form of online gambling last year alone.

Stefanie Wolownik with the Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services in Wilkes-Barre says it’s the accessibility of online betting that plays into the uptick.

“You don’t have to leave your house. You can do it 24/7, you can wake up at 2 a.m., you can’t go back to sleep, you can gamble,” Wolownik told 28/22 News.

Visiting local schools to spread awareness, she had high school students from Nanticoke draw anti-problem gambling posters to explain how even online gaming can get you hooked.

“Your first time user of an online game, you’re going to win a couple of bucks. We call it beginner’s luck, but it’s actually set that way so it keeps you coming back,” Wolownik said.

Wolownik says males in their teens and twenties are at the highest risk, but every case is different.

She explains knowledge is key, so look out for signs of struggle, such as lying about what they’re doing or chasing their losses.

“If they are going to friends or family members for money because they’re short then you kind of wonder, and they said, ‘oh I just went up to the casino, can you lend me five dollars?’ or something like that,” Wolownik said.

If you or someone you know struggles with gambling, you’re encouraged to call the PA Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-662-4357.

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