Sports betting is “endemic and acceptable and so mainstream that it is now a major pillar of American entertainment” according to Timothy Fong, Kindbridge advisor and director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program.
While sports betting is a popular recreational activity, it can become highly addictive and cause serious financial, legal and emotional problems that wreak havoc on the lives of those affected due to the dangers of sports betting.
This blog looks at real stories of people who have lost control of their sports betting and explains how to get help if you, or someone you care about, is having similar experiences.
The rise of sports betting
Sports betting is a type of gambling that involves placing a bet on the outcome of a sporting event. It has become increasingly popular since the federal ban on sports betting was lifted by the Supreme Court in 2018. This boom coincided with the widespread availability of mobile devices and apps that have created unlimited gambling opportunities. And the appetite for sports betting shows no signs of slowing down. According to the American Gaming Association, a record 31.4 million American adults planned to bet $7.61 billion on the 2022 Super Bowl, a 35% increase from 2021, making it one of the biggest gambling days in US history.
Read more: Sports Betting Statistics
Sports betting addiction stories
After opposing gambling for decades, all of America’s major sports leagues are now in the bookmaking business and for many sports fans it is an integral part of the experience.
However, while sports betting is a harmless and fun activity for most people, about 2% of Americans – roughly 6.6 million people – struggle with gambling addiction, according to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. A growing number of problem gamblers bet on sports. In fact a National Council on Problem Gambling report found the rate of gambling problems among sports bettors is at least twice as high as gambling problems experienced by gamblers in general.
Here are five real gambling stories from people whose lives have been affected by sports betting.
Over the last few years, Chad has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. At his worst, he gambled $50,000 in just 24 hours. Chad explains the negative impacts of sports betting on his life in a Legalized Sports Betting documentary by Real Sports:
“Before, you just placed a bet on the game before it started. Where now, you pick up your smartphone and you can bet mid game. I feel that the majority [of people] who are sports fans are now betting on sports. When I think about what it’s done to me, I wouldn’t want anybody to have to experience that.”
Chad’s compulsive gambling has put a huge strain on his marriage. His wife eventually asked for a divorce. According to Chad: “She said ‘This has gone on too long. I cannot live with a liar. I cannot live with a manipulator. I cannot live with someone who puts themselves before a family,’ and that’s what I’ve done.”
He explains how he became gripped by sports betting: “It’s needing that adrenaline. It’s needing the action where you fill your boredom time with it. You fill your insecurities with it. It’s just like any addiction. It seems harmless and it’s fun until it progresses.”
Steven started betting on fantasy sports in 2007 during casual games against friends. However, by 2019 he had become addicted to sports betting. He describes how it nearly ruined his life:
“It was all very accessible from my phone. I started doing it compulsively. I would win $5,000 and say, ‘Now I know what I am doing.’ So then I would bet bigger and bigger. I would lose big and start chasing to get it back. It was like two people in my brain. Now I realize it was the addiction trying to fight against whoever I really am. I’d stop. Then I would say to myself: ‘I have to get this money back. I have to get back to zero before my wife finds out and my family finds out.’”
At first, Steven found it easy to hide his compulsive behavior. His wife Kelly had no idea what he was doing on his phone. However, everything changed when she read an email about his account from a casino site. He described that moment as “a relief”. It meant he could stop lying, admit he had problems and commit to counseling. He has since started a podcast which helps other gambling addicts turn their lives around.
“I was putting $250 down on games I knew nothing about. Betting on what the teams had done the previous nights. I got down, needed the money back, went at it again. Stupid. Lost more. Tried to hide it from my wife. She found out when I didn’t have a good answer for her card getting declined at the checkout in the mall where she was buying the kids clothes. She had three cards declined. I was busted. We missed a tuition payment and a car payment.”
“My 23 year old, grown-up child, came home in his car with all of his things packed in unannounced. His Dad and I were like, ‘what’s wrong?’ He said he and his roommate got into it and he couldn’t stay there anymore. We get his mail. We could see the amount of debt piling up. Three months later, he’s in jail for destroying property in a drunken stupor at a bar after his bet didn’t hit. Yes, I need help trying to navigate this. He’s in denial, we’re in distress.”
“I was betting on sports every second of every day. It had become a sure fire way to start a fight with my wife and keep myself isolated from my kids. I didn’t want to be around them anymore after my wife called me out on the problem when she saw my credit card statement. When she realized I’d spent a significant portion of our savings, she didn’t want to be around me either. But she tried. And that led us to Kindbridge. We have managed to work our way back towards common ground. The betting on every game all the time has stopped.”
Read more: The Psychology of Sports Betting
Take our gambling disorder test
How to get help for sports betting addiction
If you, or a loved one, are experiencing harms from sports betting and you would like to stop, help is available. Gambling disorder can be successfully treated in the same way as other types of addiction.
At Kindbridge, our highly-trained counsellors are experienced at providing specialized treatment for gambling disorder – including sports betting addiction – and any underlying mental health conditions that may co-occur. After assessing your needs, we will design a personalized treatment program that is tailored to your situation.
Get in touch today to book your free and confidential 30-minute consultation.