This Sunday, March 15th, is Selection Sunday and marks the kick-off of the NCAA Basketball Tournament – better known as “March Madness.” March Madness now rivals the SuperBowl as the most bet on sporting event in the United States. A 2009 Microsoft survey estimated that 58 million Americans fill out sports brackets each year. That breaks down to about 1 in every 5 Americans!
As with the SuperBowl, March Madness and the hype that surrounds the tournament can be a very difficult time for those who are in recovery from problem gambling, and can also be a risky time for social gamblers.
Persons in Recovery
If you are in recovery for problem gambling, it is important to identify healthy ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that March Madness can bring about. Here are some ideas:
- Go to a Gambler’s Anonymous Meeting – other members understand what you’re going through and will be able to offer support and guidance through this difficult time
- Have the Conversation – It’s important to talk to your family, friends, and coworkers about your recovery so that they fully understand your feelings and can help reduce the number of triggers that you may encounter everyday
- Focus on a New Health Goal – What other healthy things have you wanted to try out? Running? Yoga? Meditation? Reading? Eating clean? Focusing on a goal that is completely separate from March Madness and gambling and supports your recovery, will help you not only remove yourself from the hype of the season, but will also help you better your help.
- Reach Out – If at any time you feel that you need more support, you can call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369) and talk to someone who will be able to connect you with the services you need.
For those who are gambling socially, March Madness can be the event that leads you to gamble more than you intend – which could lead you to negative consequences, and possibly to gambling addiction, in the future. Here are some things to remember during March Madness to keep your gambling a form of recreation, not an addiction:
- Never Gamble More Than You Can Afford to Lose – Be sure that your bills and other financial responsibilities are taken care of before you set aside money to gamble with. Gambling funds should be a part of your recreation/entertainment budget for the month.
- Have the Conversation – If you become concerned about your friend’s or family member’s gambling behaviors, have that conversation with them now. Don’t wait. Gambling disorder can happen quickly and quietly.
- Don’t Chase Your Losses – If you lose, say, “that’s okay” and walk away. Gambling always involves an element of risk, and you should never expect to win or to get your money back. When your gambling budget runs out, it’s time to stop.
- Reach Out – If at any time you feel that you need to talk to someone about your own, or someone else’s gambling, you can call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369).