Super Bowl week not so super for problem gamblers

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Only a small part of the action will be on the field when the Carolina Panthers take the field against the Denver Broncos Sunday.

The rest will be scattered around the world -- an estimated $4.2 billion in betting in the United States, some of it in legal casinos, but most of it illegal. Worldwide, bets of $10 billion or more will rest on the outcome fo the game.

For some of us, Super Bowl 50 will be the only game we bet on this year.

For others, this is "amateur week."

For them, including some 55,000 Nebraskans, gambling is a serious problem.

They bet more money than they can afford to lose, lie about the money and time spent gambling, and often chase their losses.

And it doesn't just affect them.

A study in Maryland showed 62 percent of problem gamblers in treatment had committed illegal acts as a result of their gambling, 80 percent had committed civil offenses, 23 percent were charged as criminals, and a similar study showed 57 percent admitted stealing to finance their gambling, an average of $135,000 each for a total of more than $30 million.

It's an actual addiction, according to experts, who note that brain scans of people who have just gambled look similar to those who have just used cocaine or methamphetamine. The same part of the brain that reacts to meth, cocaine, nicotine and sex responds to gambling.

But there is help available, including crisis intervention, individual counseling, group therapy and family counseling, often at low or now cost for the gambler and their loved ones.

It you, a friend or family member may have a gambling problem, call the Gamblers Assistance Program's Problem Gambling Helpline, (800) GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537).

More information about problem gambling, including low-risk playing tips, is available at PlayItSafe.ne.gov.

The program is funded in part from the state lottery.

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