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Nevada sees spike in gambling; expert predicts problem gambling epidemic

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Posted at 9:24 AM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 23:50:53-05

Gambling is an addiction — one that can be hard to escape, especially in Las Vegas. But one local 13 Action News spoke with says it's never too late to get the help you need.

The bad news is, the pandemic may have led to a lot of new people needing that help.

"I placed my first bet when I was 17 years old," says 30-year-old Jazmen.

She knows just how consuming a gambling addiction can be. She admits to prostituting to support her habit.

"I couldn't even make it home without placing a bet and gambling everything I had," Jazmen said.

Even when she lost custody of her children, Jazmen says she couldn't stop.

"I highly neglected them due to my gambling situation," she said. "Again, I was out soliciting to support the habit, and CPS got involved."

That's when Jazmen found the International Problem Gambling Center.

"It is a biological disorder. It's a real addiction that lives in the same part of the brain as alcohol and drugs," said Stephanie Goodman, the Center's executive director.

She says the fear is more people may have recently turned to gambling to deal with the stress of the pandemic. She points to a Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority report that found, despite visitor volume down 17.6%, slot revenue jumped by $220 million.

PROBLEM GAMBLING EPIDEMIC

"So what that says to us is there's a lot of Nevadans that have gone out there and they started gambling. So, for us, we feel that on the heels of this pandemic, we are going to have an epidemic in problem gambling," Goodman said.

Goodman wants anyone fighting a gambling addiction to know there is help.

But you have to take the first step.

"That's really the key. You have to want to help yourself," Goodman said.

Jazmen knows better than anyone, treatment won't work if you're not truly invested.

"To be honest, I've been through this program five times," Jazmen said. "At first, yes, I didn't think I had a problem."

But currently, Jazmen is proud to say she's successfully fighting her addiction.

"I'm here for me this time. I'm not required by anybody to be here. I completed the program back in October and I've been coming back since," she said.

TAKE THE INITIATIVE

Jazmen admits you have to take the initiative.

"Even though I'm speaking out loud and saying about the program, how good it is, the first step is the hardest," Jazmen said. "Because you have to now let people know you have a problem. You have to acknowledge it yourself, and that's the hardest part."