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.
 Caron, Emily. “Watch: Steph Curry Surprises Texas Tech, Auburn With Special Curry 6s Before Final Four.” Sports Illustrated, 4 Apr. 2019, www.si.com/college-basketball/2019/04/04/texas-tech-final-four-march-madness-steph-curry-surprise-shoes.
 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.