BOSTON — The increased amount of sports betting surrounding March Madness makes the month a good time to have the conversation about problem gambling with friends, partners, and especially children, according to the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG).
More than $12 billion will be spent on sports gambling in the next three weeks during the NCAA March Madness tournament, according to Las Vegas oddsmaker Pregame.com, making March the largest month for individual bets. Sports betting is the most popular form of gambling among youth ages 14-22. Nearly 25% of males bet on sports in an average month. An estimated 60 million Americans filled out sports brackets last year, with many compulsive gamblers reporting their gambling beginning around age 12.
“There will be billions in gambling dollars spent during March Madness,” MCCG Executive Director Marlene Warner said. “And while the majority of people will do so and never have a problem, we know sports betting is an easy way for kids in particular to be introduced to gambling, and could lead to long-term problems. We encourage parents to talk to their kids about the negative impact gambling can have. We also remind people that if they, or someone they know, may have a gambling addiction, they can call our 24-hour helpline.”
While gambling can be an entertaining pastime for many people, for some it can quickly become an overwhelming disorder. If your children find themselves preoccupied with betting, lying about how much money has been bet, feeling anxious or sleepless due to betting activity, or borrowing money to keep betting, it’s possible that they are experiencing a problem with gambling. Even though it can be a serious addiction that negatively impacts a person’s job, relationships, health, well-being, and finances, treatment is available and works.
Gambling is everywhere, and social pressure to gamble can be strong. Sports betting is a particularly easy way for young kids to be introduced to gambling. Fantasy sports and March Madness bracket competitions are being discussed on television, at schools, and among friends and family members, and can make kids feel like part of a team.
If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling, have the conversation about problem gambling and share MCCG’s confidential, 24-hour helpline, (800) 426-1234, or chat with a representative at www.masscompulsivegambling.org.