Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Online betting and compulsive gambling are on the rise amid the pandemic, March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. It’s a time to take a closer look at the issue and the impact in Wisconsin.

While casinos were shut down last year many people turned to online sites.

March Madness has only proven to fuel the fire, with an estimated 10-billion dollars in bets placed on the NCAA basketball championship games each year.

The Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling says every year when March Madness rolls around, calls to their helpline spike 30 percent. In 2020, they received a record number of calls. Nearly 17-thousand contacts compared to 2019’s 12-thousand helpline calls.

Rose Blozinski, Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, Executive Director said, “There are virtual casinos, there are sports betting, there are all kinds of things, you can be sitting right next to somebody and be gambling on your phone and nobody’s going to know that, because with a gambling addiction nothing’s being ingested like there would be with other addictions so it’s easy to hide, it can go on much longer than other addictions.

The Wisconsin Council on problem gambling has a number of 24-hour resources available for those who may need help.

They also hold virtual gamblers anonymous meetings on a weekly basis via Zoom.