Problem Gambling: How to Get Help and Bet Responsibly

Betting on sporting events is one of the most thrilling experiences for sports fans. While cashing in on a wager is an unforgettable experience, it’s important to avoid problem gambling. To do that, you need to understand the volatility that comes with sports betting

Although most sports bettors possess the tools to bet responsibly, this article highlights the unfortunate rise in problem gambling. We’ll teach you how to help loved ones that have gambling problems, and how to gamble responsibly.

Problem Gambling Statistics

When you think of legalized sports betting, all roads lead back to the United States Supreme Court ruling in 2018. This was when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 was deemed unconstitutional. The landmark case, termed Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, opened the door for states to legalize and regulate sports wagering.

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According to the American Gaming Association, sports betting is legal and lives in 30 states, in addition to Washington, D.C. Three states, including Florida, Nebraska, and Ohio, have legalized sports betting, although they are not yet operational. Additionally, seven states are in the process of legislation to legalize sports betting. In the United States, only nine states remain static on legalizing sports betting, including Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Vermont. 

According to Statista, in 2018, the year that PASPA was overturned, sports betting revenue in the United States was 430.7 million. The following year, sports betting revenue more than doubled to 908.9 million before jumping to 1.5 billion in 2020. In 2021, experts predicted that sports betting revenue reach 2.1 billion. By 2028, sports betting revenue is likely to surpass 10 billion annually.

With that said, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) indicates that around 2 million adults, roughly 1% of people in the U.S., meet the criteria for problem gambling, and an additional 4-6 million (approximately 2-3%) have a mild or moderate gambling problem. These numbers suggest that as sports betting becomes more prevalent, problem gambling is also becoming more widespread. 

Problem Gambling Defined

The National Council on Problem Gambling states that “problem gambling, otherwise known as gambling addiction, is any gambling pattern that compromises, disrupts, or damages personal, family or vocational pursuits.” 

What Are The 3 Signs of Problem Gambling?

  1. The player’s life revolves around gambling and acquiring money to gamble.
  2. Needing to bet more money to get an adrenaline rush.
  3. Failed attempts to cut back on dollar amounts associated with problem gambling or constant talk of stopping but never coming through.

Symptoms of a Problem Gambler

Problem gambling is associated with someone whose gambling causes them emotional or physical issues such as anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, illegal activity, poverty, stealing money, borrowing money with no plans on paying it back, and bankruptcy.

How Does Gambling Affect the Brain?

Problem gambling affects the brain via its defensive reaction. It weakens the reward system which then reduces the level of “pleasure” the individual experiences. In other words, it negatively affects the brain.

What Do I Do If My Partner Has a Gambling Problem?

If your partner has a gambling problem you can dial 1-888-BETS-OFF (888-238-7633) 24/7.

An individual with a gambling problem is preoccupied with gambling and exhibits a strong desire to bet frequently. They’re usually restless or irritable when attempting to stop or chase their losses. 

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Problem gambling is apparent when there is a negative impact on any area of a person’s life. This is true if it’s affecting a person’s emotions, finances, relationships, family, or work. A problem can exist regardless of the amount of money spent.

As a result, the NCPG stresses that any bettor is at risk of developing a gambling problem. So, bettors must be aware of the risks involved and gamble responsibly.

Who Is the National Council on Problem Gambling?

Founded in 1972 by Msgr. Joseph A. Dunne and Dr. Robert Custer, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), are committed to developing national and state programs to aid those affected by problem gambling. The NCPG serves as an advocate to improve the health and wellness of problem gamblers by limiting the personal, social, and economic costs they may encounter.

While many view the NCPG and other responsible gambling organizations as opposed to sports betting, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Now in its 50th year, the NCPG remains neutral on gambling while striving to broaden public awareness for problem gambling, promote treatment and recovery services, and endorse responsible gambling services.

When is Problem Gambling Most Apparent?

Three of the most significant sports betting events in the world are the FIFA World Cup, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, and the Super Bowl. During these sporting events, the National Council on Problem Gambling receives an influx of callers to the National Problem Gambling Hotline.

World Cup

Despite only occurring every four years, the World Cup is the most heavily bet on event in the world. During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, bettors wagered €136 billion (~$154 million) throughout the tournament’s 64 matches.

The average amount wagered on each match during the 2018 FIFA World Cup was €2.1 billion (~$2.3 billion), with the World Cup Final between France and Croatia garnering €7.2 billion (~$8.1 billion). 

March Madness

47 million Americans placed a wager on the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (March Madness). Throughout the tournament’s 67 games, it’s estimated that $8.5 billion was wagered.

Super Bowl

31.4 million Americans placed a wager on Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams. This was an increase of 35% from Super Bowl LV. The American Gaming Association also noted that bettors wagered $7.61 billion during Super Bowl LVI, a 78% increase from Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs that received $3.3 billion in wagers.

How the World Cup, March Madness, and Super Bowl Influences Problem Gamblers

According to CBS Sports, sportsbooks received a total handle of $21 billion in 2020. That number skyrocketed nearly three-fold in 2021, reaching $52.7 billion, according to Morning Consult. Unfortunately, problem gambling is growing across the board in response to these intense surges in sports bets. 

Problem Gambling Awareness Month rolls around at a fitting time, just after the NFL season concludes.

Since 2003, March has been Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM), a campaign dedicated to raising awareness of problem gambling and understanding, recognizing, and instilling responsible gambling. 

With more states legalizing sports betting, access to it is more effortless than ever before. Although the vast majority of the US population isn’t affected by problem gambling, as we said before, 2 million people meet the criteria for problem gambling. An additional 4-6 million people are considered to have a mild or moderate gambling problem. 

Safer Sports Betting Initiative

To illustrate the rise of problem gambling, let’s turn our attention to the recent data of New York bettors that contacted the New York State HOPEline, a telephone support line available 24/7 dedicated to those experiencing problem gambling.

In January 2021, 198 bettors in New York called the New York State HOPEline. New York then legalized mobile and online sports betting on January 8, 2022. As a result, there was a 46% increase to  289 bettors in January 2022.

As problem gambling is on the rise, the NCPG launched the Safer Sports Betting Initiative (SSBI). It’s a program dedicated to expanding responsible gambling throughout the United States. The SSBI advocates for responsible gambling initiatives in each state’s sports betting legislation. 

The SSBI also strives to develop partnerships with leagues, teams, and sportsbooks to teach responsible gambling and implement problem gambling education programs. 

How to Bet Responsibly

Gambling responsibly means having complete control of your gambling activity while not allowing gambling to negatively affect your emotions, finances, relationships, family, and the workplace. 

BetLions is a firm believer in gambling responsibly. As such, we consistently urge the importance of setting up a bankroll, emphasize the negative implications of betting for the wrong reasons, and stress the significance of staying disciplined. 

Where to Get Help and Treatment for Problem Gambling

 If you or a loved one is experiencing hardships from problem gambling, the National Problem on Problem Gambling offers 24/7 access to a certified counselor and is 100% confidential.

To reach a certified counselor for problem gambling, you can call or text the National Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-522-4700. You can also access The National Problem Gambling Hotline at to access a live chat with a certified counselor.

 The National Council on Problem Gambling also lists dedicated state problem gambling councils on their website to receive state and local treatment, self-help, and support groups.

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