Isolation during COVID-19 may trigger those with gambling issues, but there are online and telehealth resources to help


In this Sept. 9, 2018 photo, customers watch sports on a giant screen at the sports book of the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Panelists at a gambling conference in Atlantic City, on Thursday, June 13, 2019, predicted 90 percent of all US sports betting will be done online or over smart phones within the next 10 years. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Some impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak are obvious, from limited patronage at stores, to closed schools, to social distancing and more.

But a lesser-seen impact of the virus is its effect on those with gambling problems.

With the quick closure of gaming and gambling facilities in Virginia and other nearby states, those who have gambling disorders may be feeling withdrawals — some of which are similar to withdrawal in other addictions, according to the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling.

“The abrupt closure of gambling facilities such as the Rosie’s locations and neighboring state casinos in Maryland and West Virginia may cause an emotional withdrawal,” said Dr. Carolyn Hawley, president of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling. “It is not unlike someone with an alcohol use disorder who suddenly stops drinking. They can become irritable, anxious, and even shaky.”

Social distancing and orders closing some non-essential businesses may mean gaming and gambling facilities are closed, but the internet is still available.

Gambling on the internet and on mobile apps can be triggering for “problem gamblers” during a stay-at-home order.

Hawley said those in quarantine may also be stressed by job loss or other financial issues, and may turn to gambling to cope. Being at home also removes accountability measures normally in place in their lives, including having to go to work, attending peer recovery groups, using online blocking software, and maintaining healthy relationships and other activities instead of gambling.

“Even though most sports competition has ceased, people are at home wagering on table tennis, darts, and even virtual sports,” said Hawley. “People who are already in a vulnerable position are at risk now more than ever as boredom increases gambling, and social distancing provides greater exposure to gambling advertisements through television and online sources.”

The Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, a nonprofit organization, has resources for those who may be struggling with problem gambling.

There’s an online chat service and helpline at, which is operating throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Helpline counselors can refer callers to treatment providers, whom are available through telehealth or telephone call.

Starting April 14, there are also free weekly wellness groups people can participate in by phone.

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