Las Vegas counselor sees rise in problem gambling during pandemic

Problem gambling can lead to addiction
Las Vegas counselor sees rise in problem gambling during pandemic
Las Vegas counselor sees rise in problem gambling during pandemic
Posted at 8:46 AM, Sep 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 11:55:37-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — After four months without any sports because of the pandemic, nearly every professional sports league in North America has found a way to come back and play games. And perhaps no one is happier than local sportsbooks and sports bettors.

"The numbers have been very strong since we reopened. The entertainment value of betting on sports, especially in today’s world, is through the roof," said Jay Kornegay, Vice President of Superbook Operations at the Westgate Sportsbook.

But even while fans were forced to sit these games out, gamblers were not. Sportsbook apps have made it easier than ever to place bets safely on your smartphone.

"We’ve seen a steady incline in mobile waging over the last four or five years, but certainly a spike in the last couple of months as a lot of people prefer to wager at home, in the convenience of their home and that makes sense," said Kornegay.

At Bridge Counseling in Las Vegas, Merlyn Sexton, a certified problem gambling counselor, said he's seen a recent rise in problem gambling in Las Vegas, led by sports bettors.

"People have this pent-up desire and they have pent-up funds," said Sexton. "You're wagering something of value. It’s irreversible. You know you’re not gonna get what you wagered back. And it’s a chance."

And Sexton says the more bets you place, the more chances you take, and the more likely you are to lose.

"We’ve had gambling in the world forever and there’s nothing wrong with gambling. It’s just when you pass from that one point where you’re doing it recreationally to it being gambling use disorder," said Sexton.

So at what point do you have a problem? Sexton says it's possible only you know that answer, but there are two tell-tale signs.

"If you’re lying about how much you gamble and if you’re gambling more and more, because only you know. And that’s the two things that, if you’re doing that, that’s when you want to start talking to somebody because it’s not going to get better," said Sexton.

Experts stress there's no shame in seeking professional help for a potential gambling problem.

If you think you might have a problem or want to learn more information, you can click this link or call the National Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700.