Recognizing the warning signs before it becomes an addiction

Home » Recognizing the warning signs before it becomes an addiction

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – Rivers Casino Portsmouth has been open for only two days, but many people are placing their bets.

More than 20,000 people came through the casino doors for the grand opening Monday, according to a casino spokesperson.

Dwight Burrell drove from Richmond to check out the casino. He said he’s had a love of gambling for two decades.

“From Maryland, D.C., Atlantic City, Vegas, I love it all,” said Burrell. “I’m a gambler. I love to gamble.”

That love, Burrell says, has never turned into a problem.

“I don’t invest a lot of money in gambling,” he said. “It’s a sport for me. It’s a hobby.”

Burrell said he limits himself to how much he plays on the gambling floor, never spending more than a couple hundred bucks.

He, however, like many others, fears some people might not know when to cut themselves off, potentially turning a small problem into a growing addiction.

“Some people may bring their paycheck in here and gamble it away, you know, the food for their kids,” Burrell said. “You have to be very careful with it. It’s like an addiction [like] anything else. You can’t get addicted to it.”

Carolyn Hawley, the president of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG), said early intervention is key. She said gambling addiction is a serious disorder and it’s critical to recognize some of the warning signs.

“Generally, what we see is there’s a progression that starts to happen and that’s emulating some of the changes occurring in your brain where this type of behavior becomes that addiction piece comes into play – that craving, that wanting, that desiring is starting to happen,” said Hawley.

According to Hawley, problem gamblers meet certain criteria, and if they meet four out of nine specific criteria, it could lead to addiction.

“If we go through the criteria, it’s, you’re spending more time and money than what you’ve planned; you’re having increasing financial problems because of your gambling; you’re lying about your gambling; you’re losing time from family, or work, or school because you’re gambling. The gambling’s causing problems in your relationships. You’re borrowing money to gamble. You’re gambling when you’re feeling upset or stressed, and there’s this inability to cut back or stop even though you’ve tried.”

There is help for gambling addiction.

Hawley said you can call the free and confidential hotline – Virginia Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-888-532-3500. They will connect you to resources and help you get treatment before it’s too late.

“Gambling disorder, individuals who have that, it has highest suicide rate of all addictions,” said Hawley.

In a statement, Kelli Webb, the spokesperson for Rivers Casino, said employees go through extensive training to help spot signs of problem gambling before it spirals out of control.

“Rivers Casino Team Members receive extensive and ongoing training to help prevent and spot signs of problem gaming,” Webb said. “Information about problem gaming is also available to guests on property. We take responsible gaming very seriously.”

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