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As one in ten Americans pick their brackets in preparation for March Madness, many are unaware that they are exposing themselves to and/or enabling a very prevalent addiction: problem gambling.
Gambling, especially sports gambling, is not seen as a prominent problem among Americans, although, it was illegal for quite some time. Nevertheless, gambling can have the same impact on the brain as substance abuse. A person suffering from a gambling addiction will continue to gamble despite negative consequences. Symptoms may include: difficulty focusing on daily tasks or losing sleep due to a preoccupation with betting; hiding or lying about money spent wagering, and having to borrow money to continue betting (National Council on Problem Gambling).
So what does that have to do with March Madness? According to the American Gaming Association, in 2016 an estimated 70 million Americans were expected to fill out brackets in March, wagering $9 billion during the three-week basketball tournament. That figure rose to $10 billion in 2019. The amount of money spent in the first four days of March Madness exceeds the total amount spent on the Super Bowl.
For the estimated 6-8 million Americans suffering from some type of gambling-related problem, this can be a difficult time, one in which they are constantly bombarded with opportunities to bet. What’s more, while most people can gamble occasionally for entertainment, for some it quickly leads to problems. For the latter group, March Madness betting can be a gateway into a disabling addiction.
Do you think you or a loved one has a gambling problem? Visit here for more information and resources available.
The Dark Side of March Madness No One Talks About (Elements Behavioral Health)
March Madness and Gambling – Have the Conversation (National Council on Problem Gambling)
“Sports Gambling.” Information Plus Reference Series Spring 2005. Sandra M. Alters, et al. Vol 6: Gambling: What’s at Stake? Detroit: Gale, 2005. 99-122. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.