As the popularity of sports betting continues to soar, some experts are sounding the alarm on the increasing risk of gambling addictions. The main concern is the accessibility of sports betting platforms.
The Delaware Council on Gambling Problems Executive Director, Arlene Simon, says that sports betting has taken a huge uptick and calls to the helpline have increased as well. “Since the advent of mobile betting in most of the states has passed and become a law that it is not illegal to bet that way, it’s convenient. People can do it right from their homes, work, cars, any place. They can make all kinds of bets on their phones and this has caused a huge amount of gambling. “
The ease of placing bets online coupled with the constant stream of live sporting events has created an environment where individuals may find it challenging to resist the urge to gamble excessively and develop addictive patterns.
Ben Huempfner, a mental health counselor in Great Falls, talked about some of the symptoms of compulsive gambling. “There is the need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get a thrill, being preoccupied and constantly planning gambling activities or trying to get more money, feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut back, trying to get lost money back by gambling more, and lying to family members or others to hide the extent of your gambling.”
He also noted, “It’s almost always a comorbid mental health disorder. It almost always has another mental health disorder associated with it. Depression, anxiety, impulse disorders – to name a few.”
Some critics suggest the close association between sports and betting promotions normalize gambling behavior – especially among younger audiences.
Simon said, “I think sports betting related gambling addictions can span to everyone, but mostly the younger generation. 18 to 35-year-olds. Since they have the convenience of betting on their phones it can be very dangerous because you don't really keep track of what you're doing. It's really easy to keep dialing and doing things on your phone and you don't necessarily keep the track of it.”
Huempfner added that younger gamblers are at a higher risk of developing addictions: “Just because their brain is developing and they don’t have quite as good of problem solving skills. It’s definitely a concern that they need to watch out for.”
In Montana, there is a Montana Gambling Addiction Hotline for those struggling that has resources to help; click here to visit the site.