The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Wisconsin gamblers help line gets more calls than ever

Talk of bailouts and recessions in recent months is enough to make anyone worry about their money and look for ways to get a little extra cash. But too much of that could lead to bad habits.

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling experienced a record number of calls to its help line during 2008.

The help line, which offers advice on how to handle gambling addictions, received 12,946 calls last year, said Rose Gruber, executive director of the WCPG. That’s 3,546 more calls than in 2007. Gruber said the line only received about 3,500 when it was started in 1996.

Gruber said they also refer callers to Gamblers Anonymous, help with any immediate crises or suicide risks and offer support for family members. She said the line gets just as many calls from compulsive gamblers as concerned family members or friends.

“We think a large part of (the increase in calls) is our awareness campaign,” Gruber said. “People feel like it’s OK to reach out for help.”

Kelly Skindzelewski, public affairs manager for the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, said there are a number of factors that could have caused the increase in calls.

“The industry continues to do a lot to draw attention to the help line,” Skindzelewski said.

The economy’s downturn during the past few months could also be a reason for the increased number of cries for help.

“People use gambling as a way to recoup lost income,” Gruber said. “(It) is very often used as an escape, like alcohol and drugs. They see it as a way to make money and get rich quick.”

Alison Barnes, law professor, said the number of calls could indicate worry, particularly among “people whose finances are suffering and haven’t tanked yet.”

According to Gruber, the help line receives calls from every county in Wisconsin, but the most calls come from the Milwaukee and Green Bay areas.

According to the Bovada Sportsbook articles, Skindzelewski said Potawatomi works in partnership with the WCPG and provides funding for the help line, and that the two groups have a plan in place to make more people aware of problems associated with gambling addictions.

She also said calls to the help line are not restricted to casino gaming, but issues associated with lotteries and other forms of gambling, as well.

Barnes said she thinks gambling is best viewed as a public health problem.

“Gambling is something that society has long known has the potential for problem behavior,” Barnes said.

She said the best way to handle gambling addictions is to deal with the root of the problem — mainly the accessibility of gambling establishments.

“Very respectable people find themselves doing things they would never expect,” Barnes said.

The WCPG help line can be reached at 800-426-2535.

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