Gambling Problem & March Madness: A Losing Bet

Gambling Problem & March Madness: A Losing Bet

It may be all fun and games for hoops fans, but for problem gamblers, March Madness is a dangerous time of year. Those few bucks you spend on a bracket (or two) for your March Madness office pool? They’re part of an estimated $10 billion gambled each year on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Other common forms of gambling that put people at risk include casinos, online games and lotteries.

Why is March Madness a losing bet for those who may be struggling with gambling? Here are a few reasons:

  • Heightened access to gambling opportunities (many games over a short period of time means multiple chances to place bets)
  • Increased availability of gambling (e.g., work, school and family/friend group brackets)
  • Belief that the tournament is a solution for winning back losses from recent sporting event gambling (e.g., Super Bowl)

Are You at Risk?

So what is problem gambling anyway—and are you at risk?

Problem gambling is defined as any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. Gambling addiction (or pathological gambling) is distinguished by the inability to control the impulse to gamble, even if the ramifications are dire for you and your loved ones. Suffering from gambling addiction or problem gambling is also often linked with other behavioral health issues, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, uncontrolled ADHD or stress, and bipolar disorder.

You may be at risk for problem gambling if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

  1. Have you become restless, irritable or anxious when trying to stop or cut down on gambling?
  2. Have you tried to keep your loved ones from knowing how much you gambled?
  3. Did gambling losses cause you to get help with your living expenses from family, friends or other outside resources?

Winning Through Recovery

First and foremost, remember you’re far from alone, and you shouldn’t go it alone either. People from all backgrounds and walks of life face problem gambling. Whether you’ve experienced financial, work and/or personal hardships, rebuilding your life is possible by following these strategies:

  • Admitting you have a gambling problem and seeking help from a professional counselor.
  • Learning how to relieve stress, anxiety, boredom or other unpleasant feelings through exercising, taking up a new hobby, practicing relaxation techniques, or other healthy coping strategies.
  • Having a strong social network. If yours is limited, strive to make new friends or meet new people (outside of online gambling or casinos). Volunteer, spend time with coworkers who don’t gamble, join a club or recreational group, or take a class.
  • Attending a peer support group like Gambler’s Anonymous for ongoing advice, guidance and understanding.
  • Making a permanent plan to steer clear of gambling. Surrounding yourself with positivity and people who hold you accountable, avoiding tempting environments, and finding healthier alternatives to gambling can keep you on the path to wellness.

Holland Hospital staffs experienced, compassionate specialists who deliver confidential care for a wide range of behavioral health concerns, including problem gambling and gambling addiction.