Managing sports gambling during March Madness

Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 6:02 PM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Every March, millions of Americans look forward to the madness of the NCAA basketball playoffs. With multiple games being played almost every day over a 3-week period, it’s a basketball lover’s dream. However, for those struggling with gambling addictions, that dream can quickly turn into a nightmare.

“The number of games is just insane compared to what’s normally going on,” said Aaron Ras, Gambling Addiction Counselor at Rosecrance Jackson Center. “There’s 67 games in March Madness, and with the way that online betting is structured you can bet during the game, you can bet on the outcome of the game itself, there’s so many different levels. And when you extend it out over this 3-week period with 67 games, it’s just a lot of information and a lot to take in for people who struggle with gambling addictions.”

About 86% of Americans have gambled in their lifetimes, with 60% having done so in just the last year. However, only a small percentage of Americans actually develop gambling problems. About 1% of Americans are classified as problem gamblers, with 2-3% being considered at risk or having a mild addiction. While the percentage is small the cost isn’t: problem gambling accounts for over $7 billion a year in social costs. And with sports betting currently legal in 33 states, accessibility is only going up.

“People have this sort of false thinking that gambling addictions are less severe than say, a substance use addiction,” said Ras. “Both of these have very serious consequences. They might look a little bit different, but nonetheless, in fact, problem gamblers attempt suicide at a rate of 17%, so almost 1 in 5 people.”

Ras some of the signs that indicate gambling addiction include becoming irritable or restless when going through periods without gambling, hiding your gambling from others, betting more than you can afford, and asking others for financial assistance to cover gambling or other debts. He also offered some tips for anyone interested in gambling responsibly.

“To keep one from developing a gambling problem, setting low-risk guidelines like restricting your access to your credit cards, or setting a specific time limit that you can spend on these apps, or the amount of money that you plan to spend on these apps.”

While gambling on sports doesn’t automatically indicate a problem, following these tips can help make sure you avoid one.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, you can reach out to the Rosecrance Jackson Center for help and resources.