Expert says March Madness may increase sports betting addictions

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 11:11 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Even if you aren’t a sports fan, it’s possible you may fill out a bracket for March Madness. Or, for fun, you may even decide to throw a couple bucks on some games.

But, for some, March, also National Problem Gambling Month, can be detrimental to their gambling problems.

“When you can online gamble, you can do it at any time,” Christina Gray said.

It’s no secret the popularity of sports betting has risen over the last few years, and its accessibility is easier than ever. In October 2019, Indiana legalized online sports betting, meaning people can place bets from anywhere, anytime.

“You can be on your phone, people are on their phone all the time, and you can be on your phone betting,” Gray said.

Christina Gray is the Executive Director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling. She says the availability of sports betting has also led to an increase of addictions.

According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (IFSSA), calls to Indiana’s Problem Gambling Helpline have increased every year since online sports betting was legalized. You can see the trend below

According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (IFSSA)
According to the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (IFSSA)(WPTA)

“The fact that you can even bet while the game is going on, I think people are seeing that they’re having a problem with sports betting,” Gray said. “So, it doesn’t surprise me that there’s an increase in the number of calls.”

Gray says, like drug addictions, gambling addictions are a disease.

She adds there are lots of places to seek treatment, including the list below:

“There is help out there for anyone who feels that they have a problem with gambling and there is hope in recovery,” Gray said.

21Alive reached out to the Indiana Gaming Commission for comment on the increase of helpline calls since 2020 and have yet to hear back.