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I-Team: ‘The hidden addiction’

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Gambling addiction and the help that is available

EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — It’s called “the hidden addiction” because it often times does not garner the attention of other addictions such as alcohol or opioid addiction.

Addiction counseling experts tell the I-Team that gambling addictions are on the rise. They say that many people put off getting help because they didn’t realize they had a problem.

“If it’s not caught if it’s not recognized in some situations we may see things progress and that’s really where the problems begin to amplify,” said Josh Ercole, executive director council on Compulsive Gambling of PA, Inc.

The nonprofit organization provides counseling services to people who have a gambling addiciton. The group also provides training to the operators of gambling venues, such as casinos, in how to spot a protential problem with a person who is gambling.

“You know it’s something Andy where you have to remember is most cases people aren’t going to have a problem,” said Ercole.

But Ercole tells the I-Team, the number of folks who do have problems are on the rise.

“Once things start to progress that’s where we start to see people turn to different types of acts in order to fund their gambling… Maybe turn to different stories to cover up what they are doing.”

Ercole says while casinos are still hotspots, online gambling numbers are increasing.

“We saw a shift in age, so, traditionally online gambling is something particpated in higher rates by younger folks and sure enough we saw the highest call volume than we’ve seen in history really that’s the 25-34 range.”

Jason Harlen and Stefanie Wolownick are addiciton counselors at Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services based in Luzerne County. They say the numbers of calls regarding gambling addicitons has grown in recent months for them as well. They say some people may be surpsied by what motivates many people to gamble.

“Again Andy, it’s not about the money. It’s about winning; that’s what the addiction kinds of clings to it’s the winning,” said Wolownik.

“The availability of online gambling that has caused a lot of issues for people. So we are receiving phone calls on a daily basis from individuals looking for help because they have a disorder and they can’t stop on their own,” said Harlen.

And as with other addictions treatment is available and varies from person to person.

“Treatment is a word to describe a word that is used to discuss counseling you know cognitive behavioral therapy is utilized,” said Harlen.

Josh Ercole says the gambling industry is required by state law to fund programs that deal with compulsive gambling. The president and general manager of Mohegan Sun Pocono sent a statement to the I-Team which reads in part:

“Mohegan Sun Pocono (MSP) strives to understand problem gambling and to help those who do have problems obtain the help they need. MSP partners with the Executive Director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania to implement mandatory annual training on compulsive & problem gambling for all team members. MSP also has a self-exclusion program where we work with guests who wish to be barred from gaming activities at our property.

All guests of MSP have access to information brochures at any time, and the number to the problem gambling hotline is included in all gaming-related marketing efforts from MSP. We will continue to stay involved and be very supportive of problem gambling initiatives.”

Anthony Carlucci, President & General Manager of Mohegan Sun Pocono.

For more information on gambling addiction, visit the website for Council on Compulsive Gaming of PA, Inc.

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