Gambling problems could spring from March Madness brackets - KCTV5 News

Gambling problems could spring from March Madness brackets

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Part of the fun in March Madness is betting that your team will win it all. But when does that gambling go too far?

During this time of year gambling helplines see 86 percent more calls. Experts say it's because, for someone who is addicted to gambling, filling out one NCAA Tournament bracket can lead to many more bets and money down the drain.

And even something as seemingly simple as a workplace bracket, for some, can be the gateway to gambling addiction.

"The more opportunity a gambler has to gamble, the more the problem is to emerge. It's the same with alcohol and drug abuse," said Keith Spare, a gambling counselor.

Spare has been counseling compulsive gamblers for 40 years.

"For most of us, we have this internal control. If we do a bad thing, we'll quit doing it. The gambler doesn't have that," he said.

Oftentimes the problem gambler feels the only way to get the money back is to gamble more as they desperately chase their losses.

"People believe they're going to win so it's OK to take it out of the mortgage fund, or other funds like the kids' college fund," Spare said.

There are two simple tests to show if a person has a gambling addiction. The first is called bet lie. That's when someone places bets then lie about them.

The other test involves drawing a pie chart split into a person's life activities, like spending time with family or at work. If gambling is the biggest chunk of the pie, a person may have a problem.

"When that sliver, like cancer, starts to grow and you no longer spend time with your kids or your partner, you don't go to church anymore, the only thing you think of is gambling, then it's clearly a problem," Spare said.

Spare also offered information about how to spot when a co-worker may be spiraling out of control.

"They're going to keep gambling in a way that other people don't," he said.

He said it's important to get help before gambling destroys a life or takes it.

"Unstopped, it's just like alcohol or drug abuse - it will kill," Spare said.

In Kansas, treatment is free for gamblers and their families. The number is 1-800-522-47001-800-522-4700.

In Missouri call 1-888-BETSOFF1-888-BETSOFF for help.

There are also gamblers anonymous groups that meet weekly throughout the metro. And the Kansas City, KS, Community College is one place people can go for help. It's offering counseling all month long.

Click on any of these links for more ways to get help:

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