March Madness gambling — common, illegal

This post is provided by guest blogger Mary Lay, project manager of the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program, which is a project of the Indiana Prevention Resource Center at the Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington.

Mid March is the time when all college basketball fans come together to do their “brackets.” It is big news on sports websites; hours of work time is spent being sure a bracket is just right. Even the President of the United States is known for completing a bracket. Many of these brackets are done for fun, but many also involve placing a bets.

2013 tournament bracketThe Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that 2.5 billion is illegally bet annually on the NCAA basketball tournament. While most people who gambling do not become problem gamblers, an estimated 3 to 4 percent of those who begin gambling will develop into problem gamblers.

Again, most people can gamble responsibly and never develop a problem. But for some, gambling develops into a problem for which they have little to no control.

Problem gambling can lead to financial devastation, crime and poor physical and mental health, including an increased risk of substance abuse, depression, and suicide. More than six million Americans are addicted to gambling.

Problem gambling is characterized by the following:

  • Gambling for long hours or with more money than intended
  • Lying to friends and family about gambling
  • Borrowing money frequently to gamble
  • Missing school or work due to preoccupation with gambling
  • Wins and losses create mood swings
  • Gambling to escape life’s hassles and stressors
  • Arguing with family and friends about your gambling
  • Using money intended for bills and other things to pay gambling debts
  • Increasing gambling to try to win back money lost
Mary Lay

Mary Lay

Gambling on college basketball is illegal and ubiquitous — people who don’t normally gamble, will participate in office pools or NCAA brackets. Almost all states have some form of legal gambling. Indiana has riverboat casinos, lottery, charitable gaming, and racinos, which are a combined race track and casino. Sports betting is illegal in almost all states including Indiana.

If a gambler or their loved ones suspect a problem, their first step should be to call the Indiana Problem Gambling Help Line at 800-994-8448. For additional resources, visit the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling or the Indiana Problem Gambling Awareness Program.

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