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Sports betting has been around for as long as organized sports have existed. Since ancient times, spectators found that betting on a contest’s outcome made things a lot more interesting. For many sports fans, placing a small wager on a game is a fun way to get more involved. However, the problem with gambling is the insidious way it can creep into your life and gain power over your mind and motivation.

As the popularity of online and mobile sports betting grows, so does the risk of developing a gambling addiction.

What Is Sports Betting?

Sports betting is one of the most prevalent forms of gambling. In its simplest form, it involves placing a wager, also called a bet, on the outcome of a particular sporting event. The more popular the game, such as the Super Bowl or March Madness, the more people will place bets.

In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) effectively banned sports betting nationwide, except for a few states. However, since PASPA was overturned as unconstitutional in 2018, this brought sports betting back into the public eye, bringing national popularity to a mostly underground industry. With the advent of online sports betting, this pastime is more accessible and engaging than ever before.

How Sports Betting Can Turn Into an Addiction

Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder where you can’t regulate your gambling habits even if they lead to negative consequences for yourself or your loved ones. You don’t have to be out of control to have a gambling problem — compulsive gambling is an intense preoccupation with gambling or any betting or wagering behavior that disrupts your life.

All gamblers begin the same way — with the idea of making some fast money. Sports betting usually starts as a form of entertainment. However, for those prone to addictive behaviors, this pastime can set the stage for heartbreak. Whether due to an underlying mental health issue or other factors, certain people are more prone to gambling addictions, just like some are more at risk for drug or alcohol misuse.

It’s so easy to get carried away when wagering on your favorite team or a big sporting event. However, gambling is entertainment, not income — it’s never a sure thing. Whether you experience a big win or start chasing your losses, your gambling habit can become compulsive — and then you’re hooked. It won’t matter if you’re draining your bank account or hurting your family. The desire to wager more may drive you deeper into a sports gambling addiction.

The Dangers of Sports Betting and Gambling Addictions

Online sports betting calls for restraint, planning and budgeting. If you’re unable to control your betting habits, your sports gambling pastime can quickly spiral out of control.

Before placing a bet on any game, check your attitudes about gambling. False beliefs and common myths about problem gambling can impact the way you conduct yourself in regards to sports betting and may contribute to the formation of an addiction. Ask yourself if you think:

  • Gambling is an easy way to make money.
  • You have to wager every day to be a gambling addict.
  • You are smart enough to beat the odds.
  • Gambling problems are only for the weak-willed, irresponsible or unintelligent.
  • You need sports betting to relieve stress or depressive feelings.
  • The more you spend gambling, the more you’re going to win.

If you hold any of these inaccurate attitudes toward sports betting, you should avoid betting on any sporting event.

Sports Betting Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Gambling addiction is sometimes called the “hidden illness.” Unlike addictions to drugs or alcohol, gambling problems have few obvious physical signs. If you suspect someone you care for is falling into problematic sports betting, they may try to deny or minimize the problem — even to themselves. Here are some red flags to look for if you suspect a loved one has a sports gambling addiction:

  • Preoccupation with gambling and online betting sites
  • Feeling the need to be secretive about their gambling habits
  • Family and friends worrying about the amount of time or money spent on sports betting
  • Attempting to control or limit betting habits without success
  • Needing to bet more money to get the same satisfaction
  • Placing wagers even when they don’t have the money to do so
  • Gambling more to earn back the money they lost from previous wagers

Break the Cycle of Sports Betting

It takes tremendous courage to realize your sports betting has crossed the line into a gambling addiction. Instead of losing more money or breaking your already strained relationships, you can take some steps to end this habit and rebuild your life:

  • Find healthier alternatives to provide excitement or relieve stress, such as extreme sports or relaxation techniques.
  • Tell friends and family that you need help.
  • Join a support group for people struggling with gambling addiction.
  • Seek professional gambling addiction treatment.

Tackle Gambling Addiction at Gateway

Instead of placing another wager on another game, it may be time to get the help you need to break free from compulsive sports betting. Remember, the only sure thing about gambling is that you and your loved ones lose in the end.

If you or someone you love is struggling to control their gambling habits, Gateway Foundation can help. We offer effective, evidence-based treatment for gambling addiction so that you can regain control of your life. Contact us today to learn more.

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