SHREVEPORT, La. – March Madness is in full swing less than two months after mobile sportsbook in Louisiana went live on Jan. 28. While for many it’s a fun time to enjoy the weeks of filling out brackets and cheering on their favorite college basketball teams, for others it brings with it a temptation that can be devastating to families and finances.
According to the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, an estimated $10 billion has been wagered on the basketball championship games in the past few years. On average, the Problem Gambling Helpline receives between 10% and 15% more calls during March, Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
An estimated 2 million people in the US are addicted to gambling. Another 4 to 6 million are estimated to have a gambling problem.
LACG executive director Janet Miller says if someone has talked about gambling in the past as something they did for fun, but no longer talks about it even though they do, it could indicate a problem. Secrecy is a red flag, as is a loss of financial stability.
“Because we often tend to hide things and keep our problems away from other people,” Miller said. “The other part I’m looking for is people who work, and work hard, and maybe have more than one job, and yet never really make ends meet financially. Or they take out loans, or they write checks before things are settled, or they seem to have a lot of payday loans that have really high interest rates.”
Miller says this can happen because people with gambling problems are chasing wins and losses.
“A lot of people who become addicted to gambling are going to feel, ‘I’m winning, I’m feeling hot, I’m lucky, you know, I’m on top of it. And so. I will chase my winnings,’” she said. “Other people are also chasing their losses. So they think maybe they’ll turn the corner, get lucky again, and win again. So they chase their losses. So they put more money into this addiction, which is a bigger problem for them financially.”
Miller says the state of Louisiana is working on a prevalence study, so exact numbers aren’t available yet. But she is certain that the number of people with gambling addiction will increase due to the accessibility of online and mobile sports betting.
If you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, call or text 1-877-770-STOP or chat online at www.helpforgambling.org.