Gambling

Sports betting apps coming to W.Va.

Opportunities to gamble are all around us. West Virginia has more than 6,200 video betting terminals in bars, restaurants, etc. More than 6,100 of the devices operate in casinos, where table gambling also is available. If you prefer old-fashioned wagering, lottery tickets can be purchased at about 1,521 outlets.

Now comes perhaps the most dangerous opportunity for problem gamblers — sports betting apps for smartphones. They may be available before the college football season kicks off in earnest on Labor Day weekend.

Betting on sports, via “spread sheets” and similar methods, has been around for generations. Smartphone apps will place it at our fingertips. That will mean a bit of harmless fun for many who bet on games — but it also will result in a substantial number of people getting in over their heads.

As many as one in 40 people who wager show signs of being problem gamblers, according to the Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia. About one in 16 fit the classification of “at-risk gamblers.”

Since 2000, the help network has assisted more than 13,000 problem gamblers and members of their families. Many others who have lost control of their betting have not sought help.

If you plan to bet on sports, whether through the new smartphone apps or some other method, we beg you to be careful. Don’t chase lost money with more money. The odds are with “the house.”

If you suspect someone in your family has a gambling problem — and it needs to be emphasized that does not necessarily mean a classic addition — get help for your loved one. A good start is calling the help network, at 800-426-2537. Or, if you prefer, work through the organization’s website, at www.1800gambler.net.

Billions of dollars have flowed into state coffers through legalized gambling. New technology will keep the money coming — or, if you are a gambler, going.

The only safe bet is that the overwhelming majority of those who wager will lose. Please, keep that in mind if you plan to stake your money on a sporting event.

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