BLOG: Betting on the “Madness” Is a Risky Shot

Categories: Blog, Featured News

It’s that time of year again: March Madness. Many folks have been working on their brackets for weeks, while others may have just finished it with a few minutes to spare. While brackets are often all in good fun and friendly competition, small bets among coworkers, family and friends are technically illegal. In fact, the only state that betting on college sports is legal is Nevada. Despite this, the March Madness tournament is one of the biggest sporting events to bet on. The American Gaming Association (AGA) is estimating that more than $10.4 billion will be wagered on March Madness.

SOURCE:, accessed March 15, 2017
SOURCE:, accessed March 15, 2017

According to a math professor from DePaul University, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 92 quintillion. More interesting March Madness facts:

  • 40 million people fill out roughly 70 million brackets
  • Average person completes nearly two brackets
  • Average bet per bracket totals $29
  • Half of all March Madness viewers have filled out a bracket at least once in their lifetime
  • Research shows » those who fill out brackets online or through mobile applications are more likely to watch March Madness games
SOURCE:, accessed March 15, 2017

It’s interesting that during this tournament time, it is also Problem Gambling Awareness Month. What better segue to have a conversation with someone you may be concerned about? Again, while 95% of gambling is done responsibly and for fun, it can be easy to slip into some risky behaviors. Most people often don’t think of gambling when we talk about addiction.

Know the warning signs of someone who may be at risk:

  • Bragging about winning, exaggerating wins and/or minimizing losses
  • Spending a lot of time gambling, thinking about or planning to gamble
  • Restless or irritable when not gambling
  • Borrowing for gambling
  • Hiding time spent gambling or hiding bills and unpaid debts
  • Lying about how much time or money is spent on gambling
SOURCE:, accessed March 15, 2017

Since some forms of gambling are legal, there are ways to continue gambling responsibly and to minimize risk of developing a problem with gambling:

  • Set limits on time and money
  • Know risks before you bet
  • Keep gambling a social activity
  • Never borrow to play
  • Don’t chase your losses
  • Bet only what you can afford to lose
  • Gamble with money set aside for entertainment
  • Never gamble when depressed or under stress
  • Avoid mixing gambling with alcohol or other substances
SOURCE:, accessed March 15, 2017

Remember, gambling is not only brackets and sports bets. It includes fantasy leagues, lotteries, casinos, skill games and racing among many others. It is also important to recognize the link between gambling addiction and suicide. It is estimated that nearly 80% of individuals who are struggling with gambling addiction have had suicidal thoughts, and, of those, nearly 20% have attempted suicide.

SOURCE: (, accessed March 15, 2017

While gambling addiction can impact many aspects of a person’s life, there is free help and treatment available. To check your level of risk for problem gambling, take a short quiz ». If you would like more information about gambling addiction, please call 1-800-589-9966 or visit For treatment locally in Stark County, please contact CommQuest at 330-455-0374. If you thinking about suicide or need immediate help, please call the Crisis Center at 330-452-6000.

About Allison Esber

Allison Esber serves as the Coalition and Community Development Coordinator at Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR). She is the adult adviser for Stark County Youth Led Prevention and works to engage schools and the community in substance use prevention. Allison also serves as the Coordinator for the Stark County Suicide Prevention Coalition which strives to reduce suicide deaths in Stark County. Prior to her work at StarkMHAR, Allison had volunteered and worked on a 24-hour crisis hotline for nearly four years after completing a dual-bachelors degree in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. She completed her Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University in May 2015. Allison is a licensed social worker and a certified prevention specialist assistant. She is also an instructor for Youth Mental Health First Aid, QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer) and CALM-Counseling on Access to Lethal Means.