Wisconsin Gambling Problem Reaches Near-Record High in Wisconsin

At 14,690, the number of calls to Wisconsin’s Problem Gambling Helpline in 2015 was just 41 calls below the record level set in 2014.

“With increasing availability of gambling each year, it’s no surprise that the number of calls we receive for help or information remains at this level,” said Rose Gruber, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling. “It tells us that we need to be diligent at spreading the word about the resources that are available for those who are challenged by a gambling addiction.”

WCPG is a statewide organization with a mission of education and promoting public understanding of problem gambling and the disorder of compulsive gambling, while maintaining neutrality on the issue of legalized gambling.

Gruber says the total number of calls only tells part of the story. The calls in 2015 included:

  • A call from a Sauk County woman who said her boyfriend attempted suicide when she found out about his gambling addiction
  • A call from an Outagamie County man who said he is now homeless due to gambling.
  • A Brown County caller who says he gambled away the $500,000 he inherited from his father and has also maxed out his credit cards and lost his job.
  • A Milwaukee County woman who said she usually limits herself to $10 to $20, but recently spent her whole paycheck gambling.

Because of confidentiality, the Helpline report statistics are based on callers who are willing to share such information. Monthly calls to the Helpline in 2015 ranged from a low of 1,002 in August to a high of 1,667 in March. Among the other numbers in the Helpline report:

  • 28 callers reported thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • 9 callers reported having to file for bankruptcy as a result of their gambling problems
  • Average debt of $39,033. Median debt of $20,000

Looking ahead, Gruber says they don’t really expect the pace of Helpline calls to drop off this year. “In fact, we typically see a spike in calls this time of year as holiday bills come due,” Gruber said. “There’s also the temptation of trying to get a big win during the pro football playoffs, the Super Bowl and March Madness.”

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