Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia trains video lottery workers

Wood County session could be blueprint for more

Provided by the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia This graphic shows the distribution of the 13,000 calls taken by the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline from its inception in 2000 to May 2018. Wood County is on the higher end of the spectrum.

PARKERSBURG — The people who likely have the most contact with potential gambling addicts in Wood County — limited video lottery operator employees — recently received training from the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia.

The first-of-its-kind training to help workers inform folks struggling with gambling of the resources available to help them was held last week at the Williamstown Eagles location.

“It’s not something that has been done with the limited video lottery industry,” said Barbara Fittro, who owns video lottery establishments in Wood, Jackson, Wetzel and other counties. “Everyone that I have talked to after the fact was very, very responsive.”

Sheila Moran, director of marketing and communications for 1-800-GAMBLER, said the organization has offered training at the state’s casinos but wanted to reach out to video lottery retailers as well.

Even though such training is not required by law, she said Fittro and other operators were open to the idea.

Since the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline was established in 2000, it has received more than 13,000 calls, Moran said. While precise numbers were not immediately available, the organization’s website,, indicates that between 500 and 2,000 calls originated from Wood County in that time.

Fittro said employees are not expected to provide counseling, but the training is aimed at informing them about the assistance available so they can tell players who may need it.

“Most of the time, they (callers) say they have talked to the person in the establishment about their issue,” Moran said. “We went into detail about what happens when people call our line and what treatment looks like.

“We want these folks to be able to answer questions when someone comes to them,” she said.

Some people may think dialing 1-800-GAMBLER will connect them with someone in another state, or even another country, but Moran said the calls are answered in Charleston. Calling the line does not inform others about their situation, she said.

“We’re a private group. Everything is 100 percent confidential,” Moran said.

Potential callers might worry the line sets them up for a scam or cash grab. But Moran said a caller in need will be connected to a counselor for a free session. If the person does not have insurance or cannot afford to continue seeing the counselor, the network can cover up to 20 sessions, though most people don’t require that many, she said.

Often, the counselors aren’t all that far away.

“We have counselors in Parkersburg. We have counselors all over the state,” Moran said.

The network also covers counseling for loved ones of people struggling with a gambling addiction. Those individuals account for 30 percent of calls to the hotline, Moran said.

The training session in Williamstown was attended by about 30 people.

“This was one of the most engaged groups I’ve spoken to,” Moran said.

She’d like to expand the training to other parts of the state in the new year.

Fittro agreed that continuing the training would be beneficial.

“For the most part, the majority of the players are responsible players,” she said.

“But you do get that one small percentage.”



* A person who believes they have a gambling problem or a problem gambler’s loved ones can contact the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia by calling 1-800-GAMBLER or chatting online with a representative at

* Helpline agents answer questions and provide immediate crisis counseling.

* The network facilitates free, in-person consultation with one of more than 70 therapists with extensive training in gambling addiction.

* Funds are available for further treatment for individuals without insurance.

* They can also provide referrals for support groups.

* More intense treatment options are available

* Recovery support is offered via phone, email or online chat.