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'March Madness' may pose risks for gambling addicts

March 31, 2011
by News release
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Richmond, Va. — With many upsets during the first few rounds of March Madness, and many disappointments in bracket picks, there is great concern for problem gamblers during this time of year. Scores of people across the country enter brackets with friends leading up to March Madness, with high stakes both financially and emotionally for the 3 million gambling addicts in the U.S. today.

"This has been a particularly unpredictable NCAA tournament, and problem gamblers have been hit especially hard," said Bob Cabaniss, founder and executive director at Williamsville Wellness, a treatment facility licensed to treat gambling addiction. "Being aware of the warning signs of problem gambling can help those with this compulsive and dangerous addiction."

It is estimated that each year, as many as 40 million people fill out brackets—but few succeed. Out of nearly 6 million submissions to ESPN.com, two participants correctly picked all four Final Four teams. For those who have gambled real dollars, a loss affects both their team spirit and their bank account.

It is important to note that gambling addiction is not an isolated illness. The staff at Williamsville Wellness also frequently treats depression, emotional disorders and substance abuse, as they are all commonly linked to gambling addiction. Identifying addiction warning signs can help identify whether a common pastime has slipped into a harmful addiction.

Gambling addiction warning signs in adults include:

  • Talks about betting frequently

  • Commits financially driven crimes (ex: check forgery, tax fraud)

  • Increase in tobacco, alcohol and drug use

  • Reads sports pages compulsively

  • Never admits to losing

  • Borrows excessive money from friends

  • Has multiple credit cards

  • Does not pay bills on time or at all

  • More irritable, restless and isolative than usual

Gambling addiction warning signs in adolescents include:

  • Frequent dice or card games at home

  • Frequent school absences

  • Withdrawal from family

  • Drop in school grades and extracurricular activities

  • Lies about whereabouts

  • Increased irritability

  • Excessive internet use

Those who identify with several of the symptoms above could be a compulsive gambler and should seek counseling and treatment.