Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing problems that come with the NCAA March Madness tournament each year. Millions is lost to employers through a decline in work place productivity and people continue to gamble away money at unprecedented rates. Most of this gambling is illegal and this year the trend continues. The NCAA remains steadfast on its objection to gambling on the Tournament. They not only understand the hardships it places on addicted gamblers that can’t control the sheer volume of risk and loss the can suffer, but they also understand the impact to the integrity of the games at play. ESPN reports:
The $10.4 billion expected to be bet on the tournament includes popular office pools and is up 13 percent from last year’s tournament, the AGA says. Only a small fraction of the money bet on the tournament, around 3 percent, is believed to be wagered legally in the United States. The bulk of the remaining $10.1 billion is placed with offshore sportsbooks and local bookmakers, according to the AGA, which represents the U.S. casino industry.
While gambling on the tournament grows, the NCAA remains opposed to all forms of sports betting — legal and otherwise — and believes it has the potential to undermine the integrity of the games and negatively impact the welfare of student-athletes.
The legality of such gambling continues to be a prominent issue this time of year as many people view office pools as harmless fun. Unfortunately, it’s anything but and its almost always illegal gambling. ESPN explains:
“Generally, if the office pool charges a fee for entering the pool and awards prizes to the winner(s), then there is a serious question as to its legality. Some states exempt small pools from their gambling laws and regulations,” said Washington, D.C.-based attorney Steven Eichorn of Ifrah Law.
Sports betting is currently legal in only a handful of states, with Nevada the only state permitted to offer single-game wagering, the most popular form. The Nevada Gaming Control Board does not track the amount bet on the NCAA tournament separately, and combines the NBA and college basketball into one “basketball” category on its monthly revenue reports. The spike in action from March Madness is easy to see, though.
Past the issues of legality, it’s especially problematic for those with gambling addiction. The NCAA tournament structure is particularly unique, as the gambling isn’t set on one game, as is the case with the Super Bowl. For a problem gambler, regardless of today’s outcome, there is another game coming up next, and a new chance to chase the action. Michael Rosen, counselor and VP of Clinical Services with the Center for Addiction Treatment explains:
For the person with a gambling problem, there’s literally always another tomorrow. “The problem gambler’s brain is producing ‘feel-good’ chemicals at each bet, even if he’s not winning,” Rosen said.
Why then do people who struggle with compulsive gambling keep trying to recapture their losses? For example, two of the top four-seeded teams in the tournament, Xavier and Virginia, were upset during the first two rounds. Virginia’s loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County marked the first time in tournament history that a No. 16 seeded-team defeated a No. 1 seed.
“He has become conditioned to (gamble),” is how Rosen explained chronic betting even after losses. “It is simply the next part of the sequence that occurs without much conscious thought. A bet is made, and then another and then another.”
While most people cut their losses in the office pool, problem gamblers often aren’t aware of the dangers they face. Rosen advises to keep an eye on friends and family members who have a history of problems with sports betting. And, yes, he said, it can be an addiction that’s as dangerous as one to drugs and alcohol.
“You might not see physical symptoms,” said Rosen, who then ticked off a list of what to look for: Physical health may begin to deteriorate with increased hypertension, lack of sleep, less eating.
Psychological issues may include increased anxiety, depression, irritability, ruminating obsessive thoughts, and thoughts of suicide. Changes in behavior may include an increased use of alcohol or other drugs, tendencies to isolate, lying to others, experiencing angry outbursts, and reckless driving.
Clearly, March Madness has a dark side. And the gambling temptations keep on coming.
In terms of cost to employers, the Charlotte Observer points to a Chicago-based study which says as much as $1.7 billion will be lost by employers in productivity, which breaks down to $109 million lost for every 10 minutes spent following the tournament. They believe there will be over 37 million workers participating in pools with 1.5 million watching games and results online from their desks. ESPN recently quantify the financial impact of just the gambling:
On the low end, the FBI estimated in 2013 that $2.6 billion was bet illegally on the tournament. On the high end, veteran bookmakers estimate the number to be anywhere from $12 billion to $26 billion. Friendly bracket pools are everywhere, with most everyone betting on the NCAA tournament in some form. But there are bets, and then there are bets. You don’t get to $26 billion with $20-per-sheet office pools.
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