NCAA tourney gateway to gambling addiction

Published On: Mar 05 2014 05:30:06 PM CST   Updated On: Mar 06 2014 07:12:40 AM CST

After an undefeated season, many Wichita State fans think the Shockers could go all the way. Some are so sure they would bet thousands on it. "When there's a winning team, people get excited," said gambling addiction counselor Stephenie Roberts.

With Wichita State doing so well, she says there could be some first time betters in the state. Roberts says a personal financial crisis can start with something as small as filling out a bracket.

At last check, the odds of Wichita State winning the National Championship are six to one. Before the season started, the odds were 75 to one. With a $100 bet, those odds would pay out $7,500.

"It's important to realize it's not how much you want to win but how much you can afford to lose that should determine whether or not you're betting," said Roberts.

Roberts says many gamblers focus on the winnings and get into trouble when they lose. She says sometimes they even bet again, hoping to pay off the original debt. "People develop a very deep denial system surrounding their betting."

Roberts says gambling effects the brain in the same way alcohol and drugs do. She says that is why some end up addicted and delusional. "Especially with sports betting, they may think if they wear a certain shirt that their team is going to win," said Roberts. "There are just all kinds of rituals that go with it, which is part of the fantasy."

She says events like the NCAA tournament can be a gateway to gambling addiction. "More of the general public probably does participate in that because of office pools and things like that that are common in the area," said Roberts.

She says although filling out a bracket may seem innocent, sports gambling is illegal unless you are betting through Las Vegas. "Make sure that you decide how much you can afford to lose because the chances of winning are very, very slim."

Roberts say sports betting attracts a lot of teens. She says there have already been several cases of high school students in the area who were busted for having betting pools at school.

Roberts says anyone who thinks they know someone dealing with a problem should watch for frequent withdrawals from the bank, lies about how much they won, or missing work to make a bet.

People struggling with gambling addiction can get a free assessment through the State of Kansas with no out of pocket cost for treatment after that.