As we approach this year’s Big Game, the single most sports-wagered day in the calendar year, it will be easier than ever for people to gamble on all aspects of the game. This is because as of 1/31/2023, sports betting launched statewide. Initially, the three casinos within the state will be the only locations to place bets via kiosks or point-of-sale terminals staffed by employees. Mobile wagering is expected to launch sometime in early March. In addition, state regulators have approved 11 companies to offer betting through digital applications, just in time for the next highest wagered event: March Madness.


According to the Mayo Clinic, “Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction.”

Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Someone with a gambling problem may continually chase bets that lead to losses, using up savings and creating debt. In addition, gambling behavior may be hidden by those in too deep, turning to theft or fraud to support their addiction. Some signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling or a gambling disorder include: needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same rush, trying to control, cut back, or stop gambling without success, gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression, and lying to family members or others to hide the extent of the gambling. These symptoms leading to compulsive gambling can result in unwanted complications and profound, long-lasting consequences such as: relationship problems, financial problems including bankruptcy, legal issues or imprisonment, poor work performance or job loss, poor general health, and suicide, suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts. Most casual gamblers stop when losing or set a limit on how much they are willing to lose. At the same time, those with a gambling disorder are compelled to keep playing to recover their money.


Gambling, much like drugs and alcohol, is fun until it is not; however, some resources can help with prevention, including state programs offering education that target individuals and groups at increased risk. These types of programs can be found at Gamblers Anonymous has local meetings offering 12 Step fellowship similar to Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, focusing on those with problem gambling disorders. Also, The Bestlife Emotional Health and Wellness Clinic at MHA has a full-time Problem Gambling Ambassador. The Problem Gambling Ambassador is an individual with a Recovery Coaching background working exclusively in prevention messaging and with those suffering from a problem gambling disorder. Whether an individual is working with one of the many excellent clinicians at Bestlife or shares concerns of a possible gambling problem independently or through a Recovery Coach, all have access to the Problem Gambling Ambassador.


As we walk through this new world of legally accessible sports betting, being mindful of just how slippery of a slope it can be is the first step in prevention and awareness. Also, realizing that some services and individuals are ready, willing, and capable of helping pick the fallen up when prevention did not work. Rather than scratch that next ticket, scratch that itch of a possible issue. The Bestlife Clinic at MHA is ready to help.


-Tommy Smyth, MHA Recovery Coach Supervisor