Super Bowl XLVIII is upon us, and come Sunday, Feb. 2, millions of Americans will cheer on the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks. Fans have been waiting all season to see their teams reach the big game and the stakes are high - in more ways than one. CNBC estimates $10 Billion dollars will be bet on the outcome of this year's Super Bowl. For most people it's really just a way to have fun, but for the thousands of Pennsylvanians who are problem gamblers, the Super Bowl stakes are much higher. Gambling can become as addictive as alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Events like the Super Bowl can serve as "triggers" for people with gambling problems.
"There is a strong emphasis on betting on the Super Bowl, but there is no message about the fact that gambling can be risky," says Nicole Drozdiel, Gambling Prevention Specialist for Beacon Light Behavioral Health, "We are concerned about those citizens who struggle with gambling addiction, who will be betting on the Super Bowl as a last hope to recoup their losses from wagering all season. Also, since the Super Bowl is a family event of watching the game, we are also concerned about the many youth who will be introduced to the tradition of placing bets on football pools. Since youth are more than twice as likely as adults to develop gambling addiction problems, we hope parents can use this event as a teachable moment and talk about the fact that gambling is for entertainment purposes, but that it can become addictive."
Each problem gambler affects 6 to 10 people around them, so the number of people impacted by this addiction can add up fast. According to Drozdiel, "We need to reach out to those who may be struggling with setting limits on how much they are betting, and help them get the support and resources they need to address their addictions" Often a person with a gambling addiction also struggles with other addictions as well. Recent data suggests that as many as 75% of pathological gamblers also have addictions to alcohol, drugs or tobacco.
So how do you know if someone has a gambling problem?
They are often preoccupied with gambling.
They bet more money and more frequently.
They lie about the money and time they spend gambling.
They often chase their losses by betting more in a futile attempt to regain the money they've lost.
They talk about gambling frequently, often bragging about their winnings without mentioning their losses.
If you or someone you care about is putting too much at stake with their gambling, help is available 24 hours per day 7 days a week, by calling the PA Gambling hotline at (877) 565-2112 or logging on to www.paproblemgambling.org.
Free and confidential resources are available locally to all residents of Forest and Warren Counties through Beacon Light Behavioral Health and can be reached by calling 584-1140.