It’s a malady more common than one might think.
Compulsive gambling addiction is “one of the fastest rising addictions in the United States,” according to the Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan website.
“I’ll get one or two calls a week from a family member or friend about someone’s gambling,” said Sonja Roper, program supervisor for Fahrman Center in Eau Claire, Wis., which offers inpatient gambling treatment. Outpatient services also are available locally.
Signs of possible addiction, Roper said, include spending an inordinate amount of time at casinos as well as scratch-off lottery tickets strewn around the home. Often, she said, the addiction won’t be recognized until late in the game. The result can be significant financial and/or legal troubles.
“Gambling addicts are good liars,” Roper said. “It’s easier to hide it than someone who has a drinking or drug problem.
“You can’t smell gambling.”
We’re a long way from betting kiosks at every sports venue, but a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week could make that prospect a reality in the not-too-distant future.
The court voted Monday to strike down the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Sports gambling is not now legal nationwide, but the ruling allows states to pass their own laws to make it so.
USA Today reported that some states either have “legal mechanisms in place” to accommodate sports betting or have legislatures in session that are considering bills on the subject.
One thing we know is that sports gambling is a massive industry.
“While there’s no official accounting of the size of the illicit sports betting market in the U.S.,” reported Wired magazine, “experts estimate total wagers at anywhere from $80 billion to $150 billion annually.”
ESPN reported that “winners” from the ruling include franchise owners, sports data companies, app developers and the betting public. “Losers” include the NCAA, illegal bookmakers and treatment centers.
“This is a dry constitutional issue about states’ rights, but it will likely change how we have viewed sports for the past 100 years,” Tulane University Law School’s Gabriel Feldman told the New York Times. “It’s called the gamblization of sports. Fans will become much more focused on gambling than following a team. It will make every second of every game of every week interesting to fans as it will give everyone something to root for.”
On its face, that doesn’t sound too bad. After all, “an individual’s freedom to make choices should not be restricted out of fear that a small percentage will not act responsibly,” reads a Star Tribune sports column on the subject (Chip Scoggins, May 15). States and other entities also would benefit significantly from the revenue generated.
But critics contend that legalized sports betting could boost game-fixing and similar offenses, and Roper said there just aren’t a lot of resources available for those who suffer from an affliction that isn’t deemed medical in nature.
“Where does funding come into play for people who need help?” she said.
States that legalize sports gambling must realize that the change comes with responsibilities — to ensure the integrity of the leagues involved and to make available resources for those suffering from gambling addiction.