What do barbecue, the beach, and fireworks have in common? They’re all part of the way Floridians celebrate Independence Day! Not to mention, all three of these come with their own set of safety warnings.
Daytona Beach also has a tradition for the holiday weekend that started in the summer of 1959. Originally dubbed the Firecracker 250, the Coke® Zero Sugar 400 is the second major stock car cup series race of the year in the “World’s Most Famous Beach,” following the famed DAYTONA 500® that kicks off the season. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR®) fittingly has its headquarters in Daytona Beach as well, and the Daytona International Speedway is a landmark that cannot be missed.
This year’s Coke® Zero Sugar 400 takes place on Saturday, July 6, 2019. Will you be watching?
The Wheels are Turning on Sports Betting
Although sports betting has not been legalized in Florida, betting on stock car racing is in the fast lane elsewhere. Dover International Speedway in Delaware introduced a betting kiosk in October 2018 and became the first racetrack to allow visitors to gamble on site. Delaware passed legislation to allow sports betting less than one month after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision that declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) unconstitutional in May of last year.
In partnership with Sportradar Integrity Services, NASCAR® developed its policy for gambling on races in order to prevent associated cheating, which it put in place for the 2019 season. The policy includes a ban on betting for drivers and team members. This past May, NASCAR® announced that it is teaming up with Genius Sports to create a live betting platform for sportsbooks. NASCAR® also operates its own fantasy game website.
The wheels are turning on sports betting, and so too must the wheels on problem gambling treatment and prevention. While gambling is a safe recreational activity for most, those who suffer from “gambling disorder” experience a wide range of devastating effects that go far beyond an empty wallet. Gambling addiction is associated with divorce, domestic abuse, child neglect, crime, and suicidal ideation and attempts, to name a few.
Take note that it is not always easy to tell when someone in recovery for problem gambling may be in the room. Problem gambling is also known as the hidden addiction, since those who are suffering do not show physical symptoms common in cases of substance abuse. Even starting a friendly betting pool for next Saturday’s race presents a host of triggers and poses a significant risk of relapse to these individuals.
Did you know that goal nets haven’t always been a part of ice hockey? The sport has a long history, dating back to at least March 3, 1875, when the first recorded game took place at the Victoria Skating Rink in Montreal, Canada. At first, the goal zone was marked only by two poles or rocks placed on the ice on either side. An official would stand at the end of the rink and watch to see if the puck passed between the poles to determine whether a goal was scored.
As you can imagine, this caused many disputes between the players and the official. Teams would often argue with the official and between each other. Sometimes, the official would be accused of favoring the home team. In 1889, this gave goaltender William Fairbrother an idea: get some netting from local fishermen and tie it to the two posts. Players loved the new system, as it reduced the amount of arguments and increased the pace of the games.
Watching a National Hockey League game today, it’s hard to conceive ice hockey without the goal net. As great as it is, it did not eliminate disputes. Neither did slow-motion cameras and replays. How about infrared puck and player-tracking technology?The competitive nature of sports and passionate fan bases all but assure us that “questioning the call” is here to stay. While disputes are part of the career for players, coaches, and officials, they can be part of the fun and camaraderie for fans. But if bets are on the table, it’s another story.
The Safety Net for Problem Gambling During Stanley Cup® Game 7
Tonight at 8 p.m. – the Blues and the Bruins face off for the tie-breaking seventh and final game to win it all and take home the Stanley Cup ®! Given the previous six games, hockey fans are sure to be kept on the edge of their seats tonight – hopefully for the right reasons.
If you are planning to watch the game tonight with friends and family, remember that sports betting is not legal in Florida. Pressuring a loved one to place a bet can also present serious consequences for those in recovery for problem gambling. So, it might be best to just bask in the glory of the game.
Much like the net catches the puck in hockey, Florida’s Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848), is here to assist anyone who needs help with a gambling problem. Gambling disorder is a serious mental health condition that warrants treatment by a licensed specialist. The 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine provides help, hope, and connection to powerful and effective resources for Floridians at risk for problem gambling, those who are already suffering from gambling addiction, and their loved ones. To learn more about gambling addiction and the HelpLine, visit gamblinghelp.org.
According to 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine data for 2017-2018, of the more than 1,700 callers who identified the gambler’s gender, 66% indicated male, and for those who specified the age and gender (nearly 1,200), 94% were young men between the ages of 18-20.That’s cause for alarm!
Did you know that June is Men’s Health Month, and June 10-16, 2019, is Men’s Health Week? While the initiatives aim to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and testicular cancer, lower insurance rates, less frequent doctor visits, and higher death rates, gambling addiction often goes unmentioned.
Gambling addiction is serious. Known as the hidden addiction, due to a lack of visible symptoms, those affected suffer from a range of consequences, including financial, relationship, career, legal, and mental health difficulties, as well as high rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. In addition, an average of 8 to 10 others are affected by each case of problem gambling!
Help Us Make Problem Gambling Awareness a Part of Men’s Health Month
Wear Blue Day is Friday, June 14, 2019, and it’s a simple cause organized by Men’s Health Network to raise awareness of men’s health issues during Men’s Health Week. Join us in blue the Friday before Father’s Day, and help us draw attention to the impact of problem gambling on men. Use hashtag #ShowUsYourBlue on social media to add to the conversation.
 “Wear Blue Day.” Men’s Health Network, Men’s Health Network, www.menshealthnetwork.org/wearblue/friday/.
 24-HOUR PROBLEM GAMBLING HELPLINE ANNUAL REPORT. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, 2017-2018, 24-HOUR PROBLEM GAMBLING HELPLINE ANNUAL REPORT.
 Carrol, Christina, and Titilope Fadiyimu. “Lack of Health Insurance Hinders Medical Care for Men.” Men’s Health Network, Men’s Health Network,www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/inscover.pdf.
 “CDC: Women Are 100% More Likely than Men to Seek Preventative Health Care.” Men’s Health Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26 July 2001, www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/MvWhealthuse072501CDC.pdf.
 “Age Adjusted Death Rate: 2015.” Men’s Health Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.menshealthnetwork.org/library/ageadjusteddeathrate.pdf.
TV series and movies often glorify gambling, showing the hero or heroine as the smooth roller. Think Casino Royale from the James Bond series or Ocean’s Eleven. But a past episode of Showtime’s Dexter followed a slightly different path.
If you’re not familiar, the Dexter series is a crime drama mystery that takes place in Miami. Protagonist Dexter Morgan, played by Michael C. Hall, is employed by the Miami Metro Police Department but leads a secret life as a vigilante who delivers justice to murderers and other violent criminals who have escaped the legal system.
Billy Fleeter (Jeff Chase) murdered his bookie’s debtors to pay off his own gambling debt. Image property of Showtime Networks Inc.
Season 3, Episode 8: The Damage a Man Can Do
The Season 3 episode features scenes in the fictional Oceanfront Casino, where Dexter’s friend and Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits) identifies the next target, Billy Fleeter. Billy is a former college football player who was kicked off the team after his drug addiction was discovered. He later took up gambling, which became a problem for him as well.
The plot details the numerous occasions when Mr. Fleeter got himself into trouble, including getting into fights at the casino and in his home, where he managed to dodge charges of assault and battery. He formed a habit of hanging out in Oceanfront Casino and placing bets, all the while running up debts with the Nardo crime family.
To pay off his own gambling debt, Billy made an arrangement with his bookie to kill others who weren’t able to pay their debts, including an elderly school teacher, a mother of two, and a man named Dillard Nessman, who also suffered from gambling addiction.
While investigating, Dexter and Miguel discovered a gambling ledger in Billy’s home that showed his recent losses of $30,000, which led to his murder of Dillard. This becomes the justification for Dexter and Miguel to exact revenge on Billy at the conclusion of the episode.
Billy Fleeter’s (Jeff Chase) victims included Dillard Nessman, who also suffered from gambling addiction. Image property of Showtime Networks Inc.
Dexter May Be Fiction, But the Issues That Accompany Gambling Addiction are Real
Though the show’s plot is fictional and designed to be entertaining, this episode portrays several very serious issues that actually present with gambling addiction, beyond financial difficulties.
For example, Billy Fleeter’s problems with substance abuse highlight the high incidence of comorbidity among disordered gamblers. Recent research reveals that those with lifetime Gambling Disorder have highly elevated rates of comorbid psychiatric disorders, including 73% who met the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder and 38% who were suffering from Drug Use Disorder.
As a crime drama, Dexter focuses most heavily on criminal activity. Unfortunately, that too can be a symptom of problem gambling. Those suffering from the Hidden Addiction can and do resort to illegal acts – embezzlement, fraud, theft, selling drugs, etc. – to make up for the financial losses incurred while gambling, which perpetuates a cycle of chasing losses.
Removing the Stigma and Sharing the Resources
This Dexter episode portrays the character with the gambling problem as an antagonist who has committed heinous crimes. When it comes to real people that suffer from disordered gambling, we must work to remove the stigma that blames the individual and instead help them battle this serious behavioral addiction with support and helpful resources.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling problem, call 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848) and talk to someone who understands this issue and can offer a wide variety of helpful resources. Florida’s Problem Gambling HelpLine also operates the Peer Connect program, which can connect gamblers and their loved ones to those who have gone through recovery for the Hidden Addiction. Visit gamblinghelp.org to learn more.
 Buck, Scott, et al. “The Damage a Man Can Do.” Dexter, created by James Manos, performance by Michael C. Hall, et al., season 3, episode 8, Showtime Networks, 16 Nov. 2008.
 Rash, Carla J, et al. “A Review of Gambling Disorder and Substance Use Disorders.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dove Medical Press, 17 Mar. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4803266/.
The Triple Crown is a series of three thoroughbred horse races for three-year-old horses, which occurs each year during May and early June. Over time it has been considered one of the most difficult accomplishments in horse racing, and quite possibly across all sports because it requires a three-year old horse to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes (two weeks later), and then the Belmont Stakes (just three weeks thereafter). In all of racing history, only 13 horses have achieved the Triple Crown. So, what is it about this race that has millions gearing up all across the country?
While there are many traditions associated with horse racing, in recent years, many changes have also occurred within the industry. Given new technology, individuals can now place their wagers on the big horse races via cell phones, tablets, computers, and smart TVs. Off-track simulcasting, where available, offers another convenient alternative to going to the track. Many of the thousands expected to attend will spend an exorbitant amount of time and money in preparation, dress fashionably, and even make it an outing for the entire family.
However, for thousands of others who rely too heavily on gambling, they can often view these types of championships as a last-ditch effort to improve their financial situations or circumstances brought about by problem gambling. Yet, realistically speaking, these gamblers and others have zero control over the outcome of such events, as it is still a game of chance, so why do so many hold out hope?
Historically, the pari-mutuel industry has served as a significant entertainment and revenue source in Florida. For many, being at the track, here in Florida and elsewhere, is tradition. Over time, these operations grew and today provide horse and greyhound racing, Jai-Alai, and cards. But, given the increased competition in the marketplace (e.g. the establishment of the Florida Lottery, gambling cruise ships, tribal casinos, etc.) the industry began to struggle. To revitalize the pari-mutuel industry, state governments across the country implemented strategies, such as approving the presence of slot machines in licensed facilities. Further, facility operators have also taken steps within the past decade to expand their service appeal, making investments to welcome younger adults and women.
If you are among one of the thousands of gamblers who are relying heavily on a win for tomorrow’s race or on the Triple Crown, it is suggested that you take a moment to ask yourself how you arrived at your current destination. If gambling is more than recreation and is something you have difficulty doing without, take the time to call Florida’s 24-hour Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT, for alternatives to watching or betting on the race. You can also attend a self-help meeting with recovering problem gamblers as a source of support. The point is that it is up to you to declare yourself a winner by making your life a priority now.
If gambling is creating challenges in your life or a loved one’s, and is making you question varying aspects, it is time to take a closer look at recent behaviors and patterns. If you or someone you care about is:
Spending more money than one can afford to lose
Exhausting funds earmarked for other essential things
Jeopardizing relationships in one’s personal life or at work
Turning to others for financial bailouts
Lying to conceal betting activities
Preoccupied with thoughts of gambling
Experiencing feelings of hopelessness due to gambling
Wow! If your bracket isn’t broken by now, we would be amazed. With upsets right out of the gate and continuing throughout, March Madness® 2019 has given us whiplash with upsets and buzzer-beaters. There have even been surprises off the court, like when Steph Curry gave his signature kicks to Texas Tech and Auburn players before the Final Four.
Have you enjoyed the tournament so far? If you’re a Virginia or Texas Tech fan, the answer is probably “YES!” Even if your team didn’t make it very far – or into the tournament at all – the games are still downright entertaining. Basketball’s fast pace and back-and-forth action are enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.
So why risk turning innocent fun into tension and anxiety?
An important point to consider, beyond the fact that sports gambling is not lawful in Florida, is that a significant percentage of at-risk and disordered gamblers are struggling with difficulties resulting from sports betting. Per statistics from 2017-2018 alone, of the 1,859 callers seeking help from the FCCG’s 24/7 Problem Gambling HelpLine, 15% identified sports betting as their primary (5%) or secondary (10%) gambling problem. (Note: These numbers do not include fantasy sports.) Moreover, according to the 2011 replication prevalence study conducted for the FCCG by the University of West Florida, 33% of problem and pathological gamblers and 41% of at-risk gamblers have participated in sporting events through a pool. Further, 36% placed their wagers through bookies.
Sports betting also places many adolescents at risk of developing a gambling disorder, since it is among the top three preferred forms of gambling among problem and pathological adolescent gamblers, ages 13-17.
Stay Focused on the Game for the Finale of March Madness®
The fact is the hidden addiction will be watching tonight’s game. Are you sure it won’t be on your couch? The best thing that you can do as a host or a guest is to make sure you’re not creating a dangerous environment for those who may be at risk for problem gambling. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Don’t pressure anyone into placing a bet or starting a pool.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead to poor decision-making, so be sure to offer alternatives.
Though the Supreme Court’s decision on PASPA created a lot of buzz, remember that sports betting is still not legal in the State of Florida as of this writing. Let’s stay focused on the game!
Does anyone you know suffer from gambling addiction? It’s known as the hidden addiction because there are no obvious physical symptoms. On top of that, there is a stigma associated with problem gambling that often stands in the way of much-needed help for those who suffer.
If you or someone you know suffers from problem gambling, know that help and hope are available. Call Florida’s 24-7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848) and get connected to a specialist who will listen and offer the necessary resources, including free treatment. Visit gamblinghelp.org to learn more.
 Rotunda, Robert J., and Terry L. Schell. Gambling and Problem Gambling Prevalence among Adults in Florida: A 2011 Replication. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc., 2012, pp. 1–125, Gambling and Problem Gambling Prevalence among Adults in Florida: A 2011 Replication.
 Shapira, Nathan A., et al. Gambling and Problem Gambling Prevalence among Adolescents in Florida. The Florida Countil on Compulsive Gambling, Inc., 2002, pp. 1–100, Gambling and Problem Gambling Prevalence among Adolescents in Florida.
Right now, we’re in the middle of Money Smart Week® 2019. This national campaign is held each year to educate folks young and old about better management of personal finances. It’s a noble cause, given that many Americans are not in good shape financially:
44% of Americans don’t have the funds to cover a $400 emergency
43% of student loan recipients are behind on payments or aren’t making them at all
Mortgage debt across the country surged to a record $9.4 trillion in 2018
Americans’ credit card debt hit a record high of $834 billion in 2018
Total credit card debt was up 7.9% in Florida for 2018, the second-highest increase in the nation – trailing only Nevada
What is causing the empty-wallet epidemic? Many blame a lack of personal finance education in public schools that would help prepare students for success and prevent financial disarray in adulthood.
In November 2018, the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act (SB 114) was introduced to the Florida Senate. The bill seeks to require high school students to complete a half-credit financial literacy and money management class prior to graduation. In addition to managing a bank account, classes would teach students about completing a loan application, computing interest, income taxes, and simple contracts. If it passes, the Sunshine State would become just the sixth state in the nation to require such a course.
Gambling Addiction Can Devastate Personal Finances – But It Doesn’t Stop There
For an individual carrying the financial burdens of student loan debt, a mortgage, and mounting credit card balances, adding even a dime more may seem like the tipping point. Now consider an individual who suffers from problem gambling.
Gambling addiction does not discriminate and affects people across all ages, ethnicities, income/education levels, and financial situations. Whether the person is already struggling with debt or has significant savings, the Hidden Addiction can wreak havoc on one’s finances.
According to data compiled from the FCCG’s 24-hour HelpLine, in 2017-2018, the average amount of lifetime gambling losses reported by callers was $194,796 with one-third (33%) stating the gambler lost $90,000 or more. Further, while the average gambling debt reported was nearly $26,000, and 25% of respondents admitted to owing $25,000 and above, nearly one third (32%) of the gamblers earned less than $25,000 per year. Over half (54%) of the respondents owed the money to credit cards, and 57% cited banks/credit unions (26%) or loan companies (31%). More than 45% acknowledged they owed money to their utility, rent, or mortgage company because of money spent on gambling versus bills.
But that’s not all – did you know that eight to ten additional people are affected by each case of problem gambling? All too often, it leads to family and relationship troubles, child neglect, crime, legal disputes, and even physical harm.
Problem Gambling Prevention Fits Right into Money Smart Week®
While gambling can be a safe recreational activity for most, those suffering from gambling addiction cannot control their urges to place a bet.
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has developed an array of tools designed to educate Floridians – especially our youth – about probability and risk-taking, so that everyone can make smart choices about gambling in adulthood:
The Smart Choices program, designed for elementary school students, features lesson plans, worksheets, and fun activities to teach the importance of honesty and the impacts of risk-taking behavior, while encouraging sound thinking about money.
The FCCG also worked with educators to create middle and high school lesson plans that teach the crucial math concept of probability in a fun and engaging way.
To learn more about the resources that the FCCG offers for different populations, click here.
If you feel as though you or someone you know is suffering from a gambling problem – financially or otherwise – call Florida’s 24-7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (263-4848). Help and hope are available, and gambling addiction is treatable. Learn more at gamblinghelp.org.
 The State of Florida, Senate, Florida State Senate District 7, and Travis Hutson. “SB 114: High School Graduation Requirements/Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act.” SB 114: High School Graduation Requirements/Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, The Florida Senate, 30 Nov. 2018. www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00114/.
Did you watch the 2019 March Madness® Selection Show last night? Judging by the vibrant emotions on display and unrelenting energy, you would almost think it was the championship game itself.
“Selection Sunday” is an annual TV tradition that builds excitement for the coming showdown between the top men’s college basketball teams in the country. Suspenseful animations dramatically reveal each team’s first-round matchup and preliminary ranking (called a seed). The visuals are aided by intense discussion from sports pros about the first-round matchups and predictions. Yet another layer of sensation features live video of each team’s campus during selection, showing the impassioned reactions from the team and fans about their school’s seed.
Along with boosting TV ratings, the intensity of this program helps impart upon the viewer a desire to follow the tournament to its finale and an itch to compete. And there’s nothing wrong with that – people from all walks of life enjoy watching sports! Did we mention that tonight is “Selection Monday,” featuring a similar show to reveal the women’s tournament matchups?
It’s Time to Blow the Whistle on Bracketology Bets
A survey from the American Gaming Association found that a stunning 40 million American adults plan to wager $4.6 billion on 149 million brackets during March Madness®.1
You may have gotten here while searching for the secrets to a perfect bracket yourself. There is no shortage of opinions out there on that topic, but we want to focus on the facts: sports betting has not been legalized in the State of Florida as of this writing, and the NCAA opposes all forms of sports wagering.2
The NCAA goes on to state that sports betting “has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community.”1If you’re familiar with the expressions “throwing the game” and “match fixing,” it’s easy to see why the league would go to great lengths on this stance. In fact, sports gambling is grounds for ineligibility and lifelong termination for players from NCAA schools.
Beyond the dangers to the game and the careers of aspiring young athletes lie the inherent risks of disordered gambling to our communities. State and national studies have confirmed that sports betting is among the top forms of gambling presenting the greatest risks to adolescents and adults. Gambling addiction has the power to devastate players, fans, and families, and has far-reaching implications for society at large.
This does not mean you have to scrap your bracket, just Don’t Bet on It! Besides, putting money on the line takes the fun out of friendly competition. Remember that you should never pressure someone into competing, especially if money is at stake, because it is not always easy to tell who may be suffering from this hidden addiction.
For someone with a gambling problem, the hype surrounding March Madness® alone is enough of a challenge to resist the urge to place a bet. Be mindful of the immense time and effort a person in recovery for gambling disorder has invested and that the pressure to place a bet can lead to relapse, undoing it all in minutes. It helps to be familiar with the warning signs of problem gambling and to know Florida’s 24-7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT, which offers resources that include free treatment for those suffering from gambling addiction and their loved ones.
The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) invites you to join with our partners across the Sunshine State in promoting March 2019 asProblem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM)within your community and among the population you serve. Your assistance will help to raise awareness about problem gambling and available resources through the FCCG’s 24-Hour Confidential and Multilingual HelpLine, 888-ADMIT-IT, which offers diverse services and supports, including free treatment to Florida residents (gamblers and loved ones).
The theme for this year’s PGAM is Play it Safe – So the Game Doesn’t Take Control of You, which draws connections between video gaming, various forms of gambling, and problem gambling. It will alert parents and others of the need to be attentive to recreational games children and adults play. This is especially important as video games, smartphone apps, and other forms of “play” have become increasingly difficult to distinguish from gambling, which often feature many of the same elements as traditional forms of gambling.
For Those Devastated by Problem Gambling, Help and Hope are Available
For most, gambling is recreational and does not present any adverse consequences. Yet, for thousands of Floridians gambling progresses from a leisure-time activity to a compulsion. PGAM will increase awareness of the risks of gaming, and other forms of gambling, and spread the message that gambling problems can be prevented by encouraging safe play and smart gambling guidelines.
More Ways to Get Problem Gambling Help in Florida - YouTube
For people at risk for problem gambling, these activities can be the first step down a very dangerous path. Problem gamblers and their families suffer from a range of consequences, including financial, relationship, career, legal, mental health, and other difficulties – and high rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. Your support will help to raise awareness of both the risks and the resources available to those affected.
We Need Your Help in Getting the Word Out
Click here to download our Order Form, which Florida residents and organizations may use to receive FREE collateral materials and informative literature that may be used during PGAM and beyond. You can also participate in this outreach effort by including a link to our PGAM website at problemgamblingawarenessmonth.org, by distributing e-blasts that will be issued during PGAM, and by following us and sharing information on social media, using hashtags #PlayItSafe and #PGAM.
Have you ever wondered why Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) takes place in March? Originally a week-long event, PGAM was established by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) to raise awareness about gambling addiction during the NCAA March Madness tournament. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) is one of more than 30 State Affiliates of the NCPG that dedicates the month of March to spreading the word about disordered gambling, a psychiatric condition defined by the American Psychiatric Association.
What is “March Madness”?
Each March, millions of sports fans are swept into the mayhem known as March Madness. Over the course of three short weeks, the top 64 NCAA men and women college basketball teams compete in a single-elimination tournament composed of over 63 total games with hopes of bringing the National Championship title home to their campus. Fans are encouraged to complete a “tournament bracket” where they pick which teams they believe will advance from each round to compete in the Final Four. Sharing bracket selections among friends and colleagues has become a yearly tradition for many fans, even though sports betting is still illegal in an overwhelming majority of states.
Map created by ESPN. Click image to view source.
Leading up to the 2018 tournament, it was estimated that nearly $10 billion was to be wagered on the men’s tournament alone, with only three percent of bets placed legally.1 The estimation of unlawful bets is striking when considering that sports wagering was only permitted in the state of Nevada in March 2018. However, in May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, also known as the “Bradley Act”) was unconstitutional, leaving the decision to allow or prohibit sports wagering to individual states. Since the ruling, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have voted to legalize full-scale sports betting. Industry trackers predict at least 25 states will have legalized sports wagering, catapulting the U.S. to become the largest sports betting market, surpassing both the U.K. and China.2 As of this writing, Florida has not yet moved to legalize sports betting.
Remember to be Respectful
While the tournament is enjoyed by millions of college basketball fans nationwide, March Madness can be a difficult time for many individuals who are struggling with a gambling addiction. Similarly, given the widespread attention associated with the annual event, for many in recovery for disordered gambling, the games can serve as a trigger for relapse. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that recovery from a gambling addiction is different for everyone. For example, in some cases, compulsive gamblers recovering from sports wagering are unable to watch the games. In consideration of these differences, keep in mind that if someone you know indicates they are not following the tournament this year, avoid pressuring the individual for an explanation. It is possible they are struggling with a gambling problem or simply do not have an interest in basketball. Regardless of why an individual chooses to opt out, it’s important to respect the boundaries of others. Offer alternative activities and support for those who may be struggling, such as hosting a movie night or accompanying a friend to a support group. Additionally, limiting workplace conversations about March Madness can further help to avoid an uncomfortable situation for coworkers who prefer not to disclose their gambling addiction.
Dedicate March to PGAM!
Another great way to offer support for individuals struggling with disordered gambling is to dedicate March to spreading awareness of the “hidden addiction”. PGAM officially kicks off on March 1st, and the FCCG is conducting a statewide campaign: Play it Safe: So the Game Doesn’t Take Control of You. This year’s campaign will draw connections between various forms of recreational games, including online video games and traditional forms of gambling. For more information, materials, and ways to become involved, visit problemgamblingawarenessmonth.org or call 888-ADMIT-IT today.
If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling or are negatively impacted by a loved one’s gambling, know that help and hope are available. Contact the FCCG’s statewide 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848)to get connected to a wide range of resources, including free treatment for Florida residents.