'When it stops being fun, talk to somebody': March Madness coincides with Problem Gambling Awareness Month

NOW: ’When it stops being fun, talk to somebody’: March Madness coincides with Problem Gambling Awareness Month

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58)-- The American Gaming Association (AGA) predicts more people will bet on March Madness than the Super Bowl.

AGA expects 68 million Americans will bet $15.5 billion on the NCAA men's division one basketball tournament in 2023.

Experts on gambling disorders tell CBS 58 it's not a coincidence that March is also Problem Gambling Awareness Month. 

"Sports betting is sky rocketing," Doug LaBelle, a licensed clinical social worker, said.

March Madness is just one reason Wisconsin's gambling helpline got the most calls of 2022 in March.

"March as a month is a trigger," LaBelle said. "In the case of gambling, it could be a trigger that's a good one because we have fun, or it could be a trigger into the continuing progression of gambling disorder."

LaBelle said a majority of the people who bet on March Madness won't have a gambling problem.

In Wisconsin, more than 300,000 people have a gambling problem, according to the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling.

LaBelle told CBS 58 a continuation of problems can lead to addiction. 

"What happens is an individual plays, has a problem, plays, has more problems, plays, has more problems," LaBelle said.

One to three percent of adults on average have been diagnosed with a gambling disorder, according to LaBelle.

"It's tolerance, loss of control, continued gambling despite negative consequences," LaBelle said are the main three factors for a gambling disorder.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, you can call the helpline at 1-800-GAMBLE-5.

"If you gamble, have fun. When it stops being fun, talk to somebody," LaBelle said.

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