Monday, February 2, 2009
Superbowl Sunday is for gamblers what New Year's Eve is for alcoholics
From the Sacramento Bee on February 1, 2009:
--Super Bowl Sunday, it has been said, is to gambling addicts what New Year's Eve is to alcoholics. That is, an occasion to go off on a dangerous bender.
An estimated $90 million will be bet at Nevada casinos on today's game between the Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers. And that's not counting the illegal gambling taking place in living rooms and sports bars, via the Web with offshore bookies, as well as the friendly wager at the office.
Just how much does gambling permeate the Super Sunday gestalt? You can bet on everything from which team wins the coin toss to the duration of the national anthem to how long it takes for the first penalty to be called. "The Super Bowl," says Mike Osborne, executive director of Harbour Pointe, a compulsive gambling treatment center in Maryland, "is a gateway to a long road of self-destruction for many people."
Osborne should know. He is a recovering gambling addict, starting as a teenager betting on football and other sports, and watching it take over his life as an adult.
His self-destruction was nearly total: He lost his job and served jail time for embezzlement; he lost his family after pawning his wife's wedding ring and returning his kids' Christmas presents unopened; he lost his sense of self as he wandered the streets homeless and suicidal.
Those days are behind Osborne now. But he knows that gambling addiction, like alcoholism and substance abuse, never really goes away. It's a constant battle to stay vigilant in a society where gambling is not only tolerated more than other addictions but actually is state-sanctioned in the form of lotteries and tribal casinos.
"The largest enemy we face is public ignorance," Osborne says. "It may seem like it's harmless fun. It is not."
Indeed, pathological gambling has been classified since 1980 as an impulsive control disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
According to a 2007 study in the journal Analysis of Gambling Behavior, 6.2 percent of visits to a general practitioner involved problem gambling. A 2006 report by the California attorney general's office found that gaming addicts cost the state an estimated $1 billion annually in lost work time and crime.
And although it's been estimated in several studies that as much as 3 percent of the population has a gambling problem, awareness and treatment lag behind that of alcohol and drug abuse.