SEATTLE — Sports betting has become increasingly popular, and the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling is raising awareness about problem gambling and what to do if it affects you or a loved one.
“One of the things that people are oftentimes surprised to find out is that gambling is a public health issue,” said Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program. “It’s no different than, say, air quality, water quality, tobacco, alcohol control.”
Many people view sports betting as entertainment and participate to make money or take away feelings of stress, using it as an escape. While some people may make money, it does not provide long-term success for most people.
“It’s not a financial investment,” Dr. Fong said. “It’s not a way to sustainably make money.”
If you suspect a loved one struggles with a sports betting addiction, Dr. Fong suggests treating them like you would if you had concerns about a medical or psychiatric issue. That includes saying you’re worried and suggesting professional help.
“We have to be honest with one another. If you’re worried about your loved one’s gambling affecting their life or your life, your worry is real.”
Gambling addiction/disorder impacts physical, mental, psychological and social health. Addiction can lead to suicide, stress-related physical issues, like heart disease and heart attacks, substance abuse disorder and higher rates of insomnia. There is hope, though.
“Not only is recovery possible, but recovery works, and treatment for gambling disorder works,” Dr. Fong said.
Those who recover are no longer consumed by thoughts of gambling, sleep better, and no longer have negative behaviors driven by addiction, like lying and committing crimes to fuel gambling.
Treatment includes individual therapy, 12-step support groups, comprehensive support by family members, and friends and living a life of recovery.
If you or someone you love is struggling with sports betting or other forms of gambling, you can find information and get 24/7 help and confidential referrals to free or low-cost treatment in Washington state. Call or text 1-800-547-6133.
Get more information about the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling and the Washington state sports betting awareness campaign by visiting KeepItFunWA.org.