March Madness and Problem Gambling Awareness Month Coincide

By Ingrid Conway, TLMFT, Linn County SASC Gambling Treatment Counselor

College age individuals are at 2 to 3 times higher risk, than others, to develop problem gambling.  You may wonder if that affects you, but did you know that about 67% of all college students in the U.S. bet on sports?  Researchers estimate that 75% of college students have gambled in the last year.  We believe many may suffer in silence because they are not aware their recreational betting has become an addiction or know where to find help.  A main concern is about half of clients, in treatment for problem gambling, admit to thinking about hurting themselves.  It is easy to quickly reach a point of financial and emotional crisis once gambling becomes a problem or a way of coping.  The National Council on Problem Gambling has more information about resources and statistics.   The Substance Abuse Services Center (SASC) has a 24 hour Gambling Helpline at 1-563-583-1216.  There is help and there is hope.

How would you know if someone’s got a problem with gambling? We’re not suggesting anyone be the “gambling police,” just keep an eye on our friends and family if they seem to have gone too far.

Signs betting has become more than just fun:

  • Do they seem unusually hung up on a certain detail of the game? Maybe even change who they’re rooting for, based on the score or a certain player’s stats? 
  • Do they seem to talk about odds a lot?
  • Are they offering to sell or trade something for a bet, because of being out of money?

General tips about loved ones, no matter the type of gambling:

  • Are they spending more and more time or money on gambling?
  • Can they stick with limits on their betting/gambling?
  • Do they “chase” losses with more gambling, trying to win back money?
  • Do they seem to hide their gambling, or lie about how much and when they have gambled?

Helpful tips for recreational gamblers:

  • Always set a limit on time and money spent— and stick with it
  • Avoid betting if you’re intoxicated — Or if you’re mad, sad, hungry or tired. (Hungry / Angry / Lonely  Tired — HALT — This is a good idea no matter what the decision)
  • Don’t try to “chase” bets you’ve lost with more bets
  • Parents, set a good example for your kids with alcohol and bets. Ads are a good opportunity to talk about not “needing” bets to have fun
  • The good news is help is available, for the gambler and/or their loved ones.  Call the SASC (Substance Abuse Services Center) 24-hour Gambling Helpline at 1-563-583-1216.