March is national problem gambling awareness month. More than one million Californians suffer from gambling addiction according to the State Department of Public Health.
The Sheriff’s Office says illegal gambling is on the rise in Kern County
Since January 2018, KCSO has made more than 100 gambling charges.
Many patrons at underground gambling operations are often unaware they’re illegal.
“They are right out in the open because they are operating under the premise that they are legal,” said KCSO sergeant Ryan Dunbier.
“At one point, we had 14 operational illegal gambling operations between Beardsley Avenue and China Grade Loop,” Dunbier added.
The illegal trade is lucrative, but it’s harming our neighborhoods.
“One of these big (gambling) tables, we are estimating (makes) up to 100 thousand dollars a month,” Dunbier said.
KCSO says criminal activity has been tenfold around some gambling areas.
He added, “we were seeing a great influx of crimes unrelated to the gambling–narcotics, assault with a deadly weapon, stolen vehicles.”
Now, illegal gambling is much more hidden. What used to be large penny slot machines – now happens on your phone – through apps, worsening the addiction for many in our community.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can call 1-800-GAMBLER. You can also text SUPPORT to 53342, or you can chat online at 800gambler.chat. These are all free, confidential services.