Courtesy of the West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON - The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia, the group that operates the state's 1-800-GAMBLER helpline, is offering grants of up to $5,000 each to community groups to prevent youth gambling.

Problem gambling affects thousands of West Virginians. Studies show youth are actually more likely to develop a gambling problem than adults, and there is significant overlap between gambling disorder and video gaming disorder, which heavily affects teens.

A 2018 study of more than 500 West Virginia youth showed that nearly 50% gamble, including over 25% who gambled on sports. Over 25% agreed with the statement "Gambling is a good way to make money."

About 60% said they had tried to cut down on screen time, and 20% admitted gambling online.

Unlike with alcohol or drug use, many parents condone and even encourage gambling behavior. However, gambling addiction correlates strongly with mental health issues, including depression and suicide.

Yet, there are very few prevention activities in West Virginia geared toward this issue.

These grants will focus on prevention activities aimed at promoting awareness of the dangers of youth gambling.

W.Va. nonprofit organizations who work with youth are eligible. For more information, email or call 304-583-4011.