ANNAPOLIS, Md. — With Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan about to sign a new law that legalizes sports betting in the state, a support group for people with gambling problems is offering resources to help when risky behavior becomes excessive.
The American Psychiatric Association now classifies extreme gambling as a treatable addiction that can have devastating consequences.
Ken Wolfson, peer recovery specialist at the Maryland Center of Excellence and Problem Gambling, said gambling rose dramatically during the pandemic with folks turning to online sites to fight loneliness or boredom.
“People that were not used to gambling from their computers or their phones and because they were stuck inside and couldn’t get to casinos, unbeknownst to them, they went on various websites that were not safe, and some people lost their entire nest eggs,” Wolfson recounted.
House Bill 940 passed last month and will launch sports betting in Maryland this fall, at the start of football season.
If you or a loved one are experiencing a gambling problem, call the confidential help line 1-800-Gambler or go to marylandproblemgambling.com, which offers no-cost treatment funded by Maryland casinos.
Wolfson pointed to a number of tools to use if a friend or relative starts experiencing problems. He recommended turning to peer-support specialists located across the state who can help limit control or even stop gambling.
“Not only is it available for the gambler, but it’s also available for the family members,” Wolfson explained. “There’s no charge for it. You call us up, and we set you up with a licensed counselor, one on one. Most likely it’s going to be telehealth until it’s safe for us to do in person, and it’s been amazingly effective.”
About four to six million U.S. adults are considered problem gamblers, and two million have a pathological addiction, according to data from Maryland Problem Gambling. More than 150,000 Marylanders are considered chronic gamblers.