Gambling issues can mar March Madness fun |

SHREVEPORT, La. — March Madness is in full swing, less than two months after mobile sports betting went live in Louisiana on Jan. 28. hoop teams, for others it brings a temptation that can be devastating to families and finances.

According to the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling, approximately $10 billion has been wagered on championship basketball games in recent years. On average, the Problem Gambling Helpline receives between 10% and 15% more calls during the month of March, which is Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

An estimated 2 million people in the United States have a gambling addiction. An additional 4-6 million people are estimated to have a gambling problem.

LACG executive director Janet Miller said that if someone talked about the game in the past as something they did for fun, but then didn’t talk about it anymore even though they did, that could signal a problem. Secrecy is a red flag, as is a loss of financial stability.

“Because a lot of times we tend to want to hide things and push others away from the issues that we have,” Miller said. “The other part I’m looking for is people who are working, and hard working, and maybe have more than one job, and yet they can’t really make ends meet financially. Either they borrow, or they write checks before things are settled, or they seem to have a lot of payday loans, which are at very high interest rates.

Miller says this can happen because people with gambling problems look for wins and losses.

“A lot of people who get addicted to gambling will feel like, ‘I’m winning, I’m feeling good, I’m lucky, you know, I’m on top’. And so. I will chase my winnings,” a- she said. “Other people are also chasing their losses. So they think maybe they can move on, get lucky again, and win again. So they chase their losses. So they throw more money into this addiction, which creates more financial problems for them.

Miller says the state of Louisiana is working on a prevalence study, so exact numbers are not yet available. But she says she is certain the number of people with gambling addictions will increase due to the accessibility of online and mobile sports betting.

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If you or someone you know may have a problem with the game, call or text 1-877-770-STOP, or chat online at www.helpforgambling.org.

Cecil N. Messick