March is a month of madness — March Madness, to be exact. The annual NCAA basketball tournament draws millions of eyes as sports fans, as well as non-sports fans, place their bets on what they hope will be a winning team.
It’s no coincidence that March Madness takes place at the same time as Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Americans are expected to bet more than $10 billion during March Madness, with only 3 percent ($300) bet legally. Nevada is the only American state where it’s legal to place bets on a college basketball game, meaning most wagers are placed in situations like brackets, office pools or between friends. Such friendly wagers may seem harmless, but they can be an easy way for a person to get hooked on gambling. For those who already have a gambling addiction, it simply continues to feed the problem.
Problem gambling takes a toll on all ages, genders and races in Louisiana. Here are some findings from a 2016 study conducted by the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office of Behavioral Health.
• An estimated 5.4 percent of Louisiana’s adult population is at risk for addiction.
• About 2.9 percent of Louisiana adults are pathological gamblers.
• Calls to the toll-free Problem Gamblers Helpline show 56 percent of callers are men and 44 percent are women.
• Most of the callers identified themselves as either Caucasian (49 percent) or African American (47 percent).
• Financial problems overwhelmingly are the events that spark the helpline calls, followed by marital or family problems and mental health problems.
Signs of a gambling problem include:
• Lying to loved ones about gambling activity
• Deterioration of work performance
• Trouble concentrating
• Missing deadlines and important responsibilities
• Worrying about mounting debts and inability to pay them
Problem gambling may even lead to trouble with the law. Just this week, a former postal worker admitted in court to stealing more than $630,000 worth of stamps from the U.S. Post Office in Kenner. He sold the stamps online to help pay for huge gambling losses he had racked up in recent years, including more than $667,000 at Harrah’s Casino in 2011 alone. He is now facing up to 10 years in prison.
Help is available
If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling problem, multiple resources are available at no cost as long as you’re a Louisiana resident.
• Office of Behavioral Health: (225) 342-2540 or ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/1545
• Local human services agencies: ldh.la.gov/OBH_LGEs
• Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling: (318) 227-0883 or helpforgambling.org; live chatting available
• Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline: 1-877-770-STOP (7867); toll-free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
• Center of Recovery (CORE), Shreveport: 1-318-424-HELP (4357); residential treatment for problem and disordered gambling
There is hope
It can be difficult to turn your back on a gambling problem. Read this Breakup Letter to Gambling Addiction, shared by courtesy of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, and don’t lose hope. Gambling addiction is real, and we are here to help.