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WI monitoring side effects of sports betting

Sight on monitor with the teletext and betting offer for baseball matchups.
Sinisa Botas - stock.adobe.com
Sight on monitor with the teletext and betting offer for baseball matchups.

March Madness is in full swing, and depending on where you live, you might be able to place a bet on a college basketball tournament game. Wisconsin hasn't fully embraced the movement, but experts still advise people to avoid unhealthy habits.

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling paved the way for states to decide if they want to legalize sports betting. That helped fuel the presence of online platforms where people can place wagers through their smartphones. Wisconsin limits live bets to tribal casinos. But bettors can flock to some neighboring states for online access.

Rose Blozinski, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, said they're neutral on these laws but still have concerns.

"We know that more people are going to do it, and we also know that more people are going to become addicted to gambling," she said.

Since the legalization wave, Connecticut officials havehave reported a 200% increase in calls to gambling addiction hotlines.

To protect yourself from falling into traps, prevention experts recommend only betting what you can afford. If troubling patterns emerge, they suggest things like deleting betting apps and switching to flip phones. Nearly 40 states allow some form of sports betting, but some do have restrictions for college games.

The financial impacts of problem gambling can be obvious, but Blozinski noted that compulsive gamblers also have a higher suicide rate. And with mobile betting marketed toward young adults, she said this demographic should be considered high-risk.

"They're at a time where they're high risk-takers to start, and gambling fits right in with that, especially the sports betting. It makes them feel important; if you're winning, you can brag to all your friends," she added.

She said a big problem in helping young adults falling into addiction is that Gamblers Anonymous resources are outdated in the age groups they cater to. Industry leaders note their ads come with disclosures about problem gambling and where to seek help. But prevention experts say they're not easy to understand, and called for broader funding to carry out assistance programs.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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