The Psychology Behind Gambling Addictions

It’s a sad fact, but there is no denying that certain industries do try to lure people into dependent behaviors. And, per a recent article on, some of the worst offenders are casinos and slot machine makers. According to their article, nefarious tactics are in play to create full-fledged gambling addictions.


Wesleyan University professor Mike Robinson authored the story and outlined intentional tricks of the trade that can turn casual gamers into addicts.


“As an addiction researcher for the past 15 years, I look to the brain to understand the hooks that make gambling so compelling,” Robinson writes. “I’ve found that many are intentionally hidden in how the games are designed. And these hooks work on casual casino-goers just as well as they do on problem gamblers.”


One highlight he calls out is the “reward component” that many card games and slot machines offer. Tapping into the brain’s dopamine sensations (which are also triggered by sex, eating and drugs), these activities create a level of risk, excitement and uncertainty that prey upon primal urges. Eventually even losing money at a table could become a trigger that releases dopamine, setting off the urge to keep playing and “chase” a victory.


Robinson also zeroes in on the outside stimulators that are common at every casino. Things like buzzers, lights and colorful screens, which actually play psychological tricks on the brain. If you’ll notice, even a small win at a slot machine triggers big bells and whistles. This is intentionally done, to lead gamblers to over-estimate how often they are winning.


There are plenty of illusions and “magic tricks” at play too, particularly at the video machines. Modern slots have multiple win lines, which can allow for more ways to bet. They can easily fool you as one line may hit (signaling the stimulants), while the others miss. Thus you think you’ve won something, but with your maximum bet actually didn’t pay off.


Robinson concluded his article with some alarming facts. We all know that gambling addiction can be a gateway into substance abuse, but recent research has shown that it can lead to anxiety, isolation and even suicide (particularly with online betting).


Always be aware that casino game designers are becoming more and more shrewd with their addictive tactics.


“When you engage in recreational gambling, you are not simply playing against the odds, but also battling an enemy trained in the art of deceit and subterfuge,” Robinson concluded. “Games of chance have a vested interest in hooking players for longer and letting them eventually walk away with the impression they did better than chance, fostering a false impression of skill.”


‘GMA’ Anchor Opens Up About Gambling Addiction

It is not uncommon for a celebrity to open up about their struggles with drug and alcohol abuse. But rarely do we see a public figure admit to a gambling addiction. Well famed Good Morning America host Spencer Christian has decided to break the mold, going on-air to discuss the very real problems that happen when you get consumed by professional betting.


Appearing on GMA this week, Christian detailed the depths his addiction actually caused. From brushes with the FBI, to financial hardships, to the loss of close friends, this is certainly a dependency that can cause tremendous damage.


Like most gamblers, Christian certainly had his share of highs. During certain up streaks, he would bring home hundreds of thousands of dollars. So much, in fact, that federal agents began to suspect he was engaged in criminal activities.


“Before every gambling trip I’d go to three or four banks where I had accounts and take cash out,” Spencer recalled when discussing his habit. “And then I’d go off and when I’d come back, I’d have all this cash to redeposit, and that fit the pattern of someone covering up drug money or whatever. [Eventually I was told that] they found no criminal activity and I didn’t break any laws. But the agent told me, ‘You obviously have a real gambling problem, and for your own good you need to seek some help.’ That was a scary moment and it was a huge wake-up call.”


And let it be known that during those instances, Christian returned from his casino visits with a surplus. BUT many more times that not he wound wind up empty handed, tearing apart his lucrative earnings from Good Morning America.


Interestingly, Spencer claimed that the FBI visit was actually not the turning point of his addiction. Instead, it was his family that pushed him to get help and enter a recovery program.


“My daugter said, ‘Dad, you know I admire you and I love you, and I think the world of you, but you’ve got this problem and I’m going to bring grandchildren into your life,'” he recalled.  “‘Do you want your grandchildren to know their grandfather as a gambler? Is this the legacy you want to leave, is this the way you want to be defined?’ And it just hit me like a ton of bricks.'”


Since that moment, Spencer’s been seeking continuous treatment and has now become a staunch gambling recovery advocate. In our opinion, that’s the biggest win of all.


You can watch Spencer’s full interview about the subject below…



Supreme Court Overturns Sports Gambling Ban

It’s not often that we turn to the pages of Sports Illustrated for our blog source material, but this week we feel it is important and appropriate. Why? Because The Supreme Court made a major move in the world of gambling, choosing to overturn a previous federal ruling that banned professional sports betting. Now this can mean different things in different states, but in our home turf of California there are important facts to remember.


First, a little bit of background. As we have often covered in our blogs before, gambling addictions can be incredibly dangerous (they also happen to be something we treat at VRC). And truth be told, sports are often the gateway into serious dependencies.


Living in a state like California, where casinos aren’t necessarily easily accessible, the easiest way to feed these cravings is with bookies and online wagers on NFL, NBA and MLB teams. So opening up the floodgates to legalized bets on games, spreads and fantasy leagues could have some serious repercussions.


Based on the ruling, however, it looks like CA still hasn’t quite got the freedom to allow hardcore wagers (though are neighboring states like Oregon and Arizona have much more liberties now). But with this major hurdle out of the way, actions are already taking place to propose new bills that allow it.


SI revealed that California state assemblyman Adam Gray is moving forward with a proposed constitutional amendment that would make sports gambling completely legal in our region. According to their insiders, it aims to get in front of the Assembly Committee before the Legislature’s summer recess. And what does that mean? If it were able to pass both houses (with an emphasis on revenue it could generate for the state, no doubt), the proposal would go to a vote and potentially be enacted by as early as November.


How possible that may be remains to be seen. SI writer Jeremy Fuchs still has strong feelings that such a movement would get struck down. “A dispute and a looming lawsuit between tribes and the legislature makes a sports betting bill unlikely,” he wrote. “Bills to legalize sports betting have been introduced in session since 2015, though they have yet to make significant progress.”


So while Fuchs believes it to be “unlikely,” it is obvious that several state representatives are eager to see sports gambling become a reality in our state. It is certainly a concerning topic and one that has the potential to fuel many more addictions in the coming years. We advise everyone to follow this story closely.


List Released Of America’s Most Gambling-Addicted States

Just because Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the country doesn’t mean that other states aren’t being hit hard by betting addictions. With the rise of online gaming, sports wages and Native American casinos, nearly everyone can find their way into a problem. And WalletHub has done a great job of bringing that issue to the forefront, by releasing a list of the country’s “Most Gambling-Addicted States“.


Before getting into the details, WalletHub writer Adam McCann broke down some of the alarming stats that are plaguing people nationwide. For one thing, gambling dependencies now affect roughly 1 to 3 percent of all U.S. adults. They also can cost Americans some serious debt, ranging from an average of $55,00 to $90,00 for male addicts (females typically accumulate around $15,000).


And who profits off it all? Why big business, of course. McCann went to share that the industry (both online and via casinos) now earns about $100 billion a year. It’s interesting to see which regions are driving that number up and where  our home state of California ranks among the pack.


So, the #1 most gambling-addicted state should come as no surprise. It is, of course, Nevada, where booming towns like Las Vegas, Reno and Laughlin are located. Because of its history and statewide legalization laws, it’s up there by a large margin. But once we get into #2 and beyond, the details get a bit more interesting.


#2 happens to be South Dakota, nestled right in the American midwest. This state is known for having a large Native American population, which means plentiful casinos between its borders. Tragically, it’s members of the tribes themselves that often find themselves addicted; leading to further problems like drug dependencies and alcoholism.


Mississippi is not far behind, ranking in the Top 5. This state has also had a long history with gambling. Famous for their riverboat casinos, this is the most plagued state in the south when it comes to these types of addictions. Oregon is the most gambling-addicted state on the west coast, edging in at #7 (above New Jersey and Atlantic City).


And as for our home turf of California? Well thankfully, we’ve got a nice amount of distance from the top. Currently, the golden state is ranked #18 on the list; behind populated areas like New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. But it’s alarming to see us in the Top 20 and there is a good chance that ranking could go up, with the expansion of online betting sites and Inland Empire casinos.


We invite everyone to take a virtual tour of WalletHub’s map. Click below to see how certain regions stack up and please make sure to get help if this is an issue concerning you or a loved one.


Source: WalletHub

Gambling Addiction On The Rise Among Teens

A few decades back, it never seemed feasible that children could fall prey to a gambling addiction. With casinos enforcing strict “21 And Over” policies and hard regulations for lottery ticket sales, it just wasn’t a legitimate concern. Now, however, the accessibility of online betting is beginning to change that scenario and illustrating a sharp spike in young gamblers, particularly between the ages of 12 to 17.


According to recent stats provided by NBC affiliate WHEC, 39 percent of kids under the age of 18 have tried gambling. Astonishingly, 30 percent say they’ve placed bets before the age of 10. And the number one culprit of it all? You guessed it. Online apps and websites; full of slot machines, poker games and sports wagering.


WHEC’s study points the finger at several of these sites’ operators. Often times, they are disguised as gaming destinations and hide their true nature with colorful characters and movie tie-ins. But don’t be fooled, addiction specialist Jennifer Faringer warns. These are dangerous gateways into overspending.


“When kids start to gamble, often they don’t even realize they’re gambling because they call it gaming,” Faringer explained to the outlet. “These are almost practice sites for kids to teach them essentially how to gamble. They’re doing it initially for no money and then they experience wins. Then all of a sudden there’s an opportunity that pops up and says now enter your credit card number and you can turn those wins into financial wins… then the game flips.”


Several doctors interviewed for the piece have tied this type of behavior with teenage depression. They believe that these online bets are somewhat of a “silent addiction” since, unlike drugs or alcohol, they don’t cause users to exhibit outward personality shifts.


And let the record state that it is 100 percent illegal to place bets online if you are under the age of 18. Many children are committing fraud with this type of behavior, borrowing family credit cards and lying about their ages. The piece goes on to warn parents about suspicious charges on their bills, as well as a drop in academic performance.


WHEC reporters shared warning signs and new research in an online clip about underage gambling. We’ve posted it below and certainly advise any parent (or teen) who is struggling, to watch it in full and reach out for the appropriate help.

Gambling Addiction On The Rise Among Veterans

Dependencies on gambling are currently running rampant throughout the country. But one sect of the population that has not gotten a lot of attention are people who are in the military and finding themselves yearning for casinos and sports betting. Delaware State News recently shed light on this problem in a new article, which illustrated just how severe this addiction has become for those who have gone through active service.


According to their research, an estimated 10 percent of all U.S. military cadets and veterans are currently battling a gambling addiction. The situation has gotten so prominent that conferences have now been set up to assist armed service members who have lost everything to a roll of the dice.


Service Members, Veterans and Gambling Addiction was the name of the Delaware event covered by the State News. Featuring recovery advocates, motivational speakers and even casino representatives, it served as a forum where military personnel could share their stories and receive help.


“This is an event where we try to focus on something that is within our mission which is problem gambling, but we’re focusing on a particular population — the military veterans population,” organizer Jeff Wasserman told the outlet. “The reason why we are doing that is because they are a high at-risk population. Not only are we providing the general information on how to get treated for or how to prevent the addiction, but we’re really tailoring it towards the veteran community”


Several prominent speakers attended this latest event, including author Dave Yeager, who recently published the book Journeys Through Trauma, Addiction, Rock-Bottom and Recovery. Noted physician and recovery specialist Dr. Heather Chapman was another keynote speaker, who provided some alarming stats about this particular community.


“Active duty alone, the latest statistic I saw, showed that 56,000 active-duty service members have a problem with gambling,” Dr. Chapman explained to the crowd. “That’s alarming, not only because of the impact it has on themselves and their families, but it becomes a national security issue in some cases because people who have gambling problems might be more vulnerable because of their obsession and compulsion to get money to gamble.”


One of the final speakers, Delaware Council on Gambling Problems executive director Arlene Simon, summed up the situation quite well, emphasizing that these types of personnel should be sympathized with amid this crisis.


“Members of the military are seen as strong, courageous, highly disciplined and almost invincible individuals,” she explained. “Consequently, I think their susceptibility to addiction gets overlooked. Because in reality, active military and veterans are human like everyone else — and frequently they experience the trauma, substance addictions and mental health challenges that can give rise to problem gambling.”


Naloxone May Be Used To Fight Gambling Addiction

In our blogs, we have reported many times about the benefits of Naloxone and how it is helping to fight the nation’s opioid crisis. A simple nasal spray, naloxone is commonly used in emergency overdose situations and works instantaneously (by blocking the production of dopamine). Now, researchers in Finland are testing is usefulness with problem gamblers and finding some interesting results.


Dopamine and impulse behavior are a common link between the two addictions. And as Helsinki National Institute researcher Hannu Alho told The Guardiannaloxone’s fast acting agents are the crucial factors behind these tests.


“Gambling is a very impulsive behavior. The need to gamble starts right away,” Alho explained. “For this reason we are seeking a medication with a quick effect. The nasal spray acts in just a few minutes. Naloxone goes to the brain in a few minutes so it’s very useful for a gambler. If you crave gambling, just take the spray.”


In theory, it does sound like a plausible test case. But Alho added that many future tests are needed to determine naloxone’s true effectiveness in the gambling community. He said that previously, their research firm attempted to treat compulsive betting with pills containing similar substances and did see a level of success.


Currently, the Institute is gathering 13o volunteers to conduct their research. All would admittedly be dealing with a gambling problem (which, for the record, accounted for millions of Finnish citizens last year). Half would be given naloxone as a treatment and half would be given a placebo. Observations and tests would be run throughout, determining the effectiveness of the spray.


Though it will take several months to get definitive answers, we are glad that gambling addiction is making its way to the headlines again. Now, in particular, is a very dangerous time for anyone battling these impulses. With the NFL Playoffs underway and the Super Bowl around the corner, temptation to place bets is at all-time high.


We strongly encourage anyone struggling with compulsive gambling behavior to reach out and seek treatment immediately. Losing big during sports, tables or what have you can be a devastating experience and quickly lead to a downward spiral. If you or someone close to you is battling an addiction like this, do not hesitate to give us a call. 866-986-2486




Certain Video Games May Lead To Gambling Addiction

There has always been a debate about how dangerous video games may be when it comes to addiction. On the one hand, there have been links to obsessive behavior and dependencies on the programs themselves. But more recently, a new alarming detail has been uncovered. One that lets online players bet and lays the seeds for a dangerous gambling addiction.


The Guardian recently published a telling expose on the world of video game betting and the damage it is causing to players around the world. One such program, titled Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius (FFBE), is available as a “free” download for iPhones. But it has been shown to come with a dangerous cost, as real dollars are spent within the game.


FFBE, for example, comes with a “loot box” system, which charges players money through their credit cards and allows them to wager on items within the Final Fantasy universe. It recreates the same kind of randomness and “excitement” as a roulette wheel and can offer a big in-game reward if the loot works in your favor. But just like real gambling, the loot can always work against you; creating the itch to deposit even more money for another spin.


Though the game makers adamantly deny links between their product and gambling, Guardian scribe Alex Hern feels otherwise. As he writes in his article, titles like FFBE use many of the same tricks as a common slot machine.


“The system is a sort of weaponized behavioral psychology, perfectly pitched to exploit all the cognitive weaknesses that make people so susceptible to addiction and compulsion,” Hern said. “They pull all the standard strings of problem gambling: the desire for one more go, the misplaced belief that an unlucky streak must come to an end, the hope that continuing to bet will reverse the losses already incurred.”


Many of these games come with a hook as well, designed to entice new players to spend. For example, the first few FFBE loot box experiences are free; giving newbies a taste of virtual excitement. Just enough artificial money is dispersed to get the appetite whet, then, as Hern explained, “the spigot is turned off” and players need to whip out their credit cards for more thrills.


Even worse, many of these games are geared towards children and teens (who often use parents’ charge cards without their permission). From what we can see, this is laying the groundwork for dangerous addictive behavior and we certainly hope more regulations are put in place to prevent future downward spirals.


UK May Make Casinos Pay For Gambling Treatment

Every now and then, it’s good to look beyond our borders and see how other countries are tackling addiction. England, for example, is making tremendous strides in the field of recovery and just recently pushed their agenda even further. According to a Guardian article, lawmakers there are proposing new legislature which would make billion-dollar betting firms have to put their profits toward gambling addiction treatment.


Labour representative Tom Watson is credited with the measure. Here is currently running for deputy leader status in that party and vowed to “finally confront Britain’s immeasurable gambling problem,” if elected. Part of Watson’s platform is targeting the country’s casinos and betting firms, which he says go after England’s poorest communities.


“We now know that when vulnerable people try to opt out of online gambling, companies don’t always block their accounts as they should,” Watson said in a speech this week. “Gambling companies are even harvesting data to deliberately target low-income gamblers and people who have given up.”


Per The Guardian, the amount of British gambling addicts is well into the millions and that number is growing fast. Their data from The UK Gambling Commission claims that England residents 16 and above who suffer from betting issues have grown by a third in the past three years. Put into raw stats, that’s an additional 430,000 people since 2014.


For transparency, however, it is worth noting that British gambling firms already do contribute to addiction treatment; just in very small numbers. For example, in 2016 their annual take was over $13 billion pounds. Of that, only $10 million pounds were put towards recovery clinics.


Watson and his supporters strongly believe that isn’t enough. They are calling for a much larger share of the profits and a concentrated effort to help addicts from lower income regions of the country.


“My message to gambling firms today is clear: stop targeting vulnerable people. Start acting responsibly. And meet your obligation to help those whose lives have been blighted by addiction,” Watson emphasized. “You can do it now, because it’s the right thing to do. Or you can wait for the next Labour government to do it for you.”


Since those strong words, England’s Association of British Bookmakers have responded. To their credit, the association wasn’t necessarily opposed to the plan, but did feel a structure and process need to be put in place.


“We also would not oppose an appropriate, compulsory levy on the gambling industry to fund problem gambling treatment,” they said in a statement. “As we have long argued that the gambling industry needs to work together to reduce the number of problem gamblers and address the fact that most problem gamblers move between different forms of gambling.”


Very interesting updates from across the pond. Now the question is; Would an initiative like that ever be enacted in the states, targeting large casinos and online betting firms? We could certainly see it making a mountain of difference in the lives of problem gamblers here.



Links Between Gambling Addiction and Suicide

Suicide happens to be one of the worst side effects of addiction. And tragically it’s not that uncommon, particularly when your dependency sends you to a dark place of despair and hopelessness. Recent stats have shown that those fighting gambling issues are most at risk to take their lives, which is why it is imperative they seek out treatment immediately.


When you look at things on the surface, there are logical reasons why compulsive gamblers may find themselves in a vulnerable state. Often times, these cravings can cost people their jobs, their life savings, their relationships and even their freedom.


Arlene Simon, a senior rep from The Council on Gambling Problems, recently shared some alarming details on the dangerous nature behind this dependency.


“Of all the addictions, suicide is the most prevalent among problem gamblers,” she explained. “When I first started on the council’s 24-hour help line, the first call that I got was from a gentleman who was leaving the hospital because he had just attempted suicide because of a gambling problem. Today, what happens is you have a gambling addict who attempts suicide, or commits suicide, and there’s all sorts of reasons. They have depression, family issues, embezzled money and they can’t pay it back, but people don’t relate it always to gambling. Somebody might say ‘oh, he had severe depression.’ Well, why did he have that depression? They don’t take that extra step to find out that they he had that depression because he was in the throws of a terrible gambling problem.”


The scary thing about those prone to gambling is the impulsiveness of it all. Once you are caught up in betting, it’s easy to lose track and throw more and more money on the table. Suicide, it has been shown, can be a very impulsive act as well. If you happen to be near a gun, razors, a pill bottle or what you have you, it’s easy to want to instantly react to a devastating loss (particularly if you’re also under the influence of other substances).


Simon also brought up the fact that the nation’s opioid crisis is taking attention away from other serious addictions happening throughout the country. She does not deny that it deserves to be addressed, but is fearful the rise in gambling-related suicides may get lost in the shuffle.


“I think there could be more done,” she added. “I think that right now the focus is so heavy on the opioids and the opioid addiction, that everything else is sort of pushed in the background. People still have the mentality that gambling is a moral failure, and that it’s not a true addiction. What happens in the brain is similar to what happens when you’re drinking and doing drugs, the diagnostic protocol that providers use, doctors use, we’re listed in there. So we’re no longer the ‘stepchild’ according to the medical community, and I don’t think that the government totally understands that.”


Arlene certainly makes a powerful point and we want anyone out there struggling with a gambling issue to understand that there is always hope. We’ve seen hundreds of former addicts turn their lives around after losing it all. Please, if this hits a nerve with you or someone you love, reach out and get help. 866-986-2486


Virtual Reality May Be Used To Battle Gambling Addictions

We love profiling innovative new recovery treatments and this week, a very unique approach is being tested that may help people struggling with gambling addictions. Virtual Reality happens to be one of the hottest technologies on the market, with video games and “second life” worlds available at the click of a button. And now researchers are also testing its ability to curb betting temptations, which is how it may work with people in treatment.


In case you’re unaware, virtual reality (or “V.R.” for short) involves putting on a special pair of glasses, then controlling your movements in an entirely simulated environment. Much like the movie Avatar, the worlds people enter can range from exotic distant planets, to local theme parks and beyond.


In the case of gambling addicts, programmers can also simulate Las Vegas casinos and the tempting environments where people may face slot machines, card tables and sports bookies. To help those in recovery face their demons, University of Quebec staffers are testing patients in these simulated scenarios.


Stephane Bouchard is one of the lead researchers on the project. He explained how the gambling V.R. world could also potentially extend to an environment for those dealing with drug and alcohol abuse.


“If a patient is addicted to cocaine, I can talk with the patient forever, but what really matters is how he or she deals with the situation when cocaine is in front of that person,” Bouchard told The “The best thing I would like to do in therapy is to actually offer cocaine to the patient—but that obviously is not possible.”


He added that for gamblers a situation like that actually is possible, thanks to virtual reality. He believes that V.R. would give recovery professionals insight into how their patients may react to a real-life betting scenario. Unlike letting them loose in a casino on the strip, V.R. gives the therapist true control over what their patients are experiencing. Virtual tech can allow these worlds to be changed or turned off in an instant.


And that could be very comforting news for the over two million Americans currently suffering from this issue. Bouchard has already spent several months researching V.R. and firmly believes that these devices can be a powerful tool in lowering that number.


Do you have a loved one who is battling a gambling problem? Valley Recovery Center has several programs that can help them push through this crippling addiction. Call us today at 866-986-2486.



Confessions Of A High-Profile Gambling Addict

This week, we ran across a compelling confessional in The Hollywood Reporter. Typically this famed entertainment outlet is not a place where you’ll find addiction stories, but front-and-center on the homepage was a self-penned essay from one of the leading business managers in the music industry. Jonathan Schwartz made millions of dollars before the age of 40, overseeing the careers of artists like Alanis Morrissette. But this past January, it all came crashing down when a gambling addiction led to his firing and embezzlement charges.


Schwartz was ultimately convicted of stealing over $7 million from his clients and using the money to fuel casino trips and poker games. Yes, of course, this is horrendous behavior, but as he clearly spells out in his article, it was a lifelong addiction that led him down this road.


One reason that Jonathan discussed his issue was to help others who may be in the same situation. He took full responsibility for his actions and comes off quite apologetic for the crimes he committed.


“I am writing this open letter to you so that you can learn from my mistakes and never find yourself in the situation I am now in,” he wrote. “I am a convicted felon who has fully accepted responsibility and pleaded guilty to federal charges related to my embezzling over $7 million from my clients.”


Schwartz then goes on to describe everything that his addiction took away from his life. A loving family, a flourishing career, the trust and respect of his colleagues…He readily admits that gambling destroyed everything he holds dear.


Jonathan also delves a bit into the history of his addiction, describing how these cravings tore his parents apart and haunted him throughout his teens. He even described gambling as a gateway into drug abuse and alcoholism as well (a fact we’re well aware of).


“Since college I was a gambling addict,” he confessed. “I should have been more careful when I first started gambling socially because my father was a gambling addict who abandoned the family when I was young. Over the years, my gambling addiction grew, particularly as I became more successful. I often turned to drugs to deal with the stress but mostly sought refuge in the world of sports gambling. The spiral I was in was toxic. Winning did not make me feel better but losing was intolerable. If I lost, then I had to make it back and when I lost again, the hole I had dug got deeper and deeper. I felt weak and powerless, terrified by my internal demons that I was turning into my father.”


Powerful words that are far too common among gambling addicts. But if there is one silver lining, it is Jonathan’s message of hope. He describes how getting into a treatment program helped him slay the demons and he urges any reader dealing with the same issue to seek out help immediately.


“In super stressful jobs where the demands feel overwhelming,” he concludes, “do not turn to drugs or gambling to deal with the stress or violate their responsibilities to others hoping no one will notice, but seek help from those around them or treatment before it is too late. Please use me as an example of what can go disastrously wrong when you start down the wrong path. Please, please follow a different path.”



4 Signs Your March Madness Betting Is Going Too Far

Professional sports games are rooted in fun and camaraderie, but in today’s times there is a dangerous third factor that can easily fuel addictive habits. We are, of course, talking about gambling and how getting in on some “action” can lead to disastrous consequences. March, in particular, can be treacherous month for people prone to sports betting. With the NCAA College Basketball Finals (and all of those brackets circulating around the office), temptations are everywhere to overbet and throw away hard earned money on a very common addiction. For this blog, we thought we’d identify four key warning signs to see if your “casual wagers” are going too far.

1) Lying To Loved Ones About Your Habit

What can start as an innocent office pool can quickly escalate into constant daily wagers, particularly during the multitude of NCAA games. One way to know if your habit is getting out of hand is by doing a quick self-evaluation. Are you being truthful with your wife, parents and friends about your betting? Excessive gambling often comes with a burden of shame and it’s not uncommon to try and explain away missing finances. Hiding bank statements from a spouse, making up stories about your whereabouts…These are all telltale signs that a bad addiction is forming. Always make sure you are truthful with the ones you love and, more importantly, truthful with yourself.


2) “Chasing” Losses

One common term in the gambling world is “chasing.” In other words, trying to bet more and more to recover a series of losses. The truth is, this mentality never holds true and eventually the “chase” can lead to bankruptcy, substance abuse and much worse. If your college team lost a match and you think you can recover by immediately placing more money on another sport, think again. We understand how tempting that sounds, but it is another clear indicator that a problem is brewing and you need help.


3) Borrowing Money

Now this is where a lot of gamblers can get into trouble. Those scary stories about loan sharks and bookies are not that far fetched. Once giant NCAA debts occur, it is not unusual for an addict to reach out for extra cash. This could be from a loved one, a “quickie loan” establishment or an enabler who looks forward to collecting with interest. The saddest part of all is, 9 times out of 10 the money isn’t being for positive means. It’s used for more betting (and more losses). We strongly encourage seeking out help before things reach this level and if you’re the family member being asked for money, say no and stage an intervention.


4) Starting New Addictive Habits

There is no denying that gambling is a gateway to drug and alcohol abuse. For one thing, March Madness outings almost always happen at bars and it’s not uncommon for drugs to make an appearance at a basketball viewing party. Plus, losing your bracket selections can often put you in a vulnerable state making you much more likely to use.


The key solution to all of this is to STOP before things reach a dangerous level. Valley Recovery Center is here 24/7 to help during these tempting times and we encourage anyone struggling with a gambling issue to reach out immediately.

New Program Aims To Educate Teens About Gambling Addiction

Though legally you need to be 21 to gamble, betting can begin at a much earlier age. It’s an unfortunate fact, but gambling addictions can strike as early as the teens; which is why one local New Mexico program is hoping to educate their city’s youth.


According to the Las Cruces Sun News, 10 to 15 percent of New Mexico youths are at risk for developing a gambling problem. And that’s not all…Their study revealed that young gambling addicts often fall prey to drug and alcohol abuse.


So to get ahead of the curve, the city has developed a program called Kids’ Don’t Gamble: Wanna Bet? Taught at recreation centers and Boys & Girls Clubs across Las Cruces, it is estimated to reach over 285 youths aged 9-13.


Two primary courses will be titled “Dangers of Underage Gambling” and “Signs of a Gambling Addiction.” There will also be handouts and social media pages set up for support.


“This is a really good class,” staff member Adriana Rojas told the Sun News. “It lets parents know that gambling isn’t good for their kids who are underage.”


And though the program is currently centered in New Mexico, it is catching nationwide attention and has a custom website. Let’s hope cities across the U.S. pick up on trend and continue the curriculum.

Casinos Test ‘Responsible’ Gaming Systems

We’ve mentioned many times how the country’s gambling addiction is growing at an alarming rate. Well to help curb the problem, one Boston casino is testing new slot machine technology, which reportedly incorporates “Responsible Gaming” features.


Titled Play My Way, these new machines will offer on-screen notifications when players reach a certain spending limit. The Plainridge Park racing track intends to install them this month, with the full support of the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling (MCCG).


Reps were quick to point out that these slots are still in the testing phase and the Play My Way feature is currently voluntary.


“It’s truly a prevention tool,” said MCCG executive director Marlene Warner. “We want people to keep gambling in a way that’s healthy and safe for them, so that it doesn’t rise to that problematic level. It’s just a tool to make that person aware of what’s happening and the decisions they’re making.”


The notifications will hope to do just that, halting bettors in the middle of their games after continuous losses. If successful, Massachusetts’ gambling commission is considering implementing the machines in more casinos throughout the state. Let’s hope cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City get the message too.

March Without The Madness

Pull up any sports page and you’ll see nothing but “March Madness” updates dominating the headlines. And why not? It’s certainly a fun experience, as the country’s best college basketball teams battle each other for an NCAA Championship. But along with all of the fun, comes gambling brackets, happy hours and lots of temptation for those who have struggled with addiction. Our advice is to celebrate March without the so-called “Madness”…and here’s a few tips that can help you do just that.


Believe it or not, roughly $227 million is legally wagered during annual March Madness events. And according to The Atlantic, illegal betting could reach as high as $2.5 billion. We recommend staying out of the brackets entirely. Even if it’s just friendly office wagers, the temptation to want to bet more only increases the more success you have on an “innocent” bracket pool. Small time bets like that work as a gateway to much worse losses, particularly if you’re someone who’s struggled with gambling addiction in the past.


We also strongly advise against watching games at bars, even if you plan to go sober. The excitement of a team that you love advancing in the playoffs (especially around rowdy drinkers) can certainly fuel the cravings to order a round. Or the people you’re with may want to pressure you to join in on a celebratory shot. Don’t do it. And the best way to avoid it is by politely declining the happy hour invite in the first place.


With all that said though, there is absolutely no reason you can’t enjoy watching your college team kick butt in the tourney. We just want you to do it responsibly. Try watching a game at home with friends (in a controlled environment). Heck, if it’s in the vicinity, even go to a game yourself. Just enjoy your moment in the stands and say no to all the wild tailgating and after parties.


The Dangers Of Online Gambling

Follow the local news and you’ll learn that California lawmakers are strongly considering licensing fantasy sports websites. To us this poses a real threat, particularly for those struggling with gambling addiction. Imagine what kind of doors it could open for an addict, if all they have to do is click a button on their computer to bet their entire paycheck. The consequences could be disastrous.


The L.A. Times recently published an informative article on the issue, which rightfully brought up the epidemic of gambling addiction. It claims that up to one million residents here suffer from it and they are already in harm’s way, with desert casinos, lotto tickets on every corner  and race tracks just a stone’s throw from the city. So we say, why make the options any easier?


Fantasy sites like Draft Kings and Fan Duel lure in millions of subscribers with an emphasis on football, baseball and NBA bets. Most major states (such as New York, Texas ad Illinois) have shut out those types of www.’s, but California may change its course. Right now, a bill allowing gambling sites has been approved by the Assembly and is being strongly considered by the Senate. According to the article, a decision could be made as early as August.


Co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, Timothy Fong, had strong words against the bill.


“There is something alluring about the ability to gamble 24 hours a day, seven days a week … on my mobile phone,” he told The Times. “And whenever you have an expansion of gambling, you have an expansion of gambling addiction if you don’t have prevention and treatment programs in place.”


We are proud to provide treatment for this growing epidemic. But we would much rather not have it take a turn for the worse, with the legalization (and enabling) of sports betting sites. If you, or someone you know, has a problem, reach out to us or contact 1-800-GAMBLER.


Bad Bets

We have to admit, it must be tremendously difficult for a recovering gambling addict in this day and age. With events like the Super Bowl and the recent Powerball fever, it feels like news outlets and the media are begging you to place big bets. Well, find comfort in knowing you’re not alone and it is very possible to turn your back on the temptation of easy money.


The good news is, several medical professionals are beginning to recognize the problem of gambling addiction and spreading the word about how easy it is to get sucked into the trappings. Billions of dollars are lost every year on betting, particularly in the world of professional sports.


UCLA recently conducted a study on the reasons why people are drawn to gambling and how big events like Super Bowl enable negative behavior. It’s not surprising to hear that chronic gamblers seek the same sensations that alcoholics and drug abusers do.


“People gamble for many reasons,” UCLA clinical director Dr. Timothy Fong explained. “The most obvious one is to make money, but there are others that stand out, including gambling for entertainment, competition, escape or to relieve boredom. Similar to alcohol or drugs, many gamblers start because gambling either made them feel normal or made them feel euphoric.”


He went on to say that the Super Bowl is most bet upon event of the year and offered some signs to help self-evaluate whether your bets have crossed the line into addiction.


“Gambling addiction is characterized by continued gambling despite harmful consequences,” Fong added. “There are many different possible warning signs that gambling has become a problem, with the most common ones being lying about gambling, not being able to stop or control gambling, spending excessive amounts of time gambling and being preoccupied by gambling.”


The same goes for the so-called “lotto fever” LA recently experienced, as Wayne State University Psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Shiner told the local news.


“What really gets to gamblers is the excitement of buying the ticket, watching the drawing, watching the tension build and when that last number comes out — there’s a sudden release of tension, and people experience that as pleasurable and that’s really what gamblers crave,” he explained.


These are undoubtedly all very serious symptoms and ones you should address if you or someone you care about took a big financial hit recently. Valley Recovery Center has professionals around-the-clock if you feel your betting may be going a bit too far.