Area’s gambling problem growing

Once again Wood County is gaining statewide attention, except this time it’s because of the gambling problem here.

Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia has received more helpline requests from Wood County than nearly anywhere else in the state. Only Kanawha County, which has a much larger population and includes the largest city in the state, has a larger number of calls to the hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

It should be noted that Ohio County is third on the list, which shouldn’t be a surprise since Kanawha and Ohio counties both are the homes of gambling casinos. Wood County, though, certainly seems to be the mecca for video lottery sites, with one seemingly being within easy walking distance of anyone in the city of Parkersburg.

The helpline reportedly has received more than 700 calls from Wood County, which worries the helpline administrators who know that only a small percentage of those with a gambling addiction actually seek the help they need to keep themselves and their families from economic decay.

With an estimated 1 percent of the population being compulsive gamblers, there are another 2-3 percent who have a gambling problem.

“When people come here for help, they talk about how gambling has ruined their marriage, or how they have spent hours gambling instead of spending time with their kids. Of course they are concerned about all the money they have lost, but that isn’t usually why they enter treatment,” according to Melissa Nelson, a gambling network counselor at Westbrook Health Services.

Patty Deutsch, gambling network director, said, “There are two questions that have been found to accurately predict a gambling problem. ‘Have you ever felt the need to spend more and more money?’ and ‘Have you ever lied to anyone about your gambling?’ If you answer yes to either of those questions, you should call us before the problem gets worse.”

Over the years, several attorneys and judges have cited gambling as a major reason for a growing number of divorces and embezzlement charges, as well as families’ financial difficulties. Many police officers have contended gambling is second only to drug and alcohol abuse as a major problem for domestic disturbance calls.

Just like having an occasional beer, glass of wine or shot of whiskey, there is nothing wrong with the occasional card game, bingo game or video lottery game. But just as an alcoholic can’t take that first drink, some people can’t take that first delve into gambling. The trick is to know what one can and cannot tolerate … and for many that seems to be getting more difficult.


On a side note, it was an interesting week at The News and Sentinel. We launched a new email server and program that should improve our ability to process emails and automatically will archive them for 180 days, but it will take some getting used it.

Some of the emails with multiple recipients, such as press releases from government officials and some of our editorial page materials, automatically have been sent to a spam folder, meaning we have had to find the item and “whitelist” it so it will appear in an active email account.

It also is possible that some items might not have been downloaded from the previous email server before it was disconnected, which is what we’ve been trying to determine so we can try and retrieve them.

On the plus side, all of the individual email addresses at the newspaper remain the same.

Contact Jim Smith at