A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gambling awareness, March Madness share month; NCAA Tournament largest gambling event of the year


In March, the largest gambling event of the year – the NCAA men’s basketball tournament – begins. March also is national Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM).

If the Kentucky General Assembly passes House Bill 175, and it is signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin, sports betting in Kentucky will become legal. Even more betting on basketball will occur.

The Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) takes no position for or against gambling. Gambling has existed almost from the beginning of mankind. KYCPG does stress the need for awareness of problem gambling warning signs and how to gamble responsibly.

To its credit, House Bill 175, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig and others, includes creating and funding the first public program in Kentucky to educate the public on problem gambling and establish a treatment program. There is no publicly funded program for awareness and treatment of addicted gambling in Kentucky in spite of the state receiving more than $250 million annually in gambling revenues. House Bill 175 would change that, even as it expands the opportunity to gamble in the Commonwealth. The bill was approved by committee and awaits approval by the full House before it can be voted on by the Senate.

It does concern KYCPG that the availability of gambling is a risk factor in a person developing a gambling disorder, and House Bill 175 expands gambling. KYCPG neither endorses nor opposes the bill. Kentucky already is a gambling state. Data from the Kentucky Lottery Corp. indicates 81 percent of all Kentuckians over 18 years of age have played the Lottery in their lifetimes; 64 percent within the last year. This statistic does not include horse race wagering, charitable gaming participation, or sports betting by those who never have purchased a lottery ticket.

PROBLEM GAMBLING IS A PUBLIC HEALTH CONCERN. The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) reported, “Gambling problems are associated with poor health, several medical disorders, and increased medical utilization — perhaps adding to the country’s healthcare costs.” According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), 20 percent of those with a gambling problem attempt suicide, a higher rate than any other addictive disorder.

KYCPG suggests the modest cost of a functional awareness and treatment program would be less than one-half of one percent of the gambling revenue the state currently receives. Further, KYCPG suggests any expanded gambling, including sports gambling and historical horse racing machines, include funding for problem gambling awareness and treatment. House Bill 175 responsibly does that.

Meanwhile, Kentuckians will continue to place their March Madness bets and fill out their office pool brackets. The latter also is a gambling cost. The firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas estimated the lost workplace productivity from March Madness betting and office pools was more than $1 billion annually.

KYCPG urges individuals who gamble to follow a three-question self test to gamble responsibly. Before gambling, ask yourself these three questions:

1. WHETHER you should gamble, knowing that losing is likely, that you cannot control chance, and that it does not interfere with other responsibilities?

2. WHEN is it appropriate to gamble, understanding that gambling is not a healthful way to deal with emotions or stress?

3. HOW MUCH money and time can you gamble, recognizing gambling is entertainment and not an essential expenditure of time or money?

And during gambling: keep track of pre-set time and money limits; take frequent breaks; and avoid the ATM or other sources of money or credit.

If you cannot gamble responsibly or you think you need assistance for a gambling problem, please call or text 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537). A trained counselor is available at all times to respond to your call or text. You also can visit www.kycpg.org to chat on-line with a counselor.

From Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling


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