Super Bowl weekend is upon us, and fans are betting on their favourite team to bring home the win both figuratively and literally.
Matthew Hodgins, a certified addictions counsellor with St. Raphael Wellness Centre in Winnipeg, said sports betting apps are becoming more and more popular—increasing access to gambling, but also the associated risks.
“Decades ago… you would have to leave the home to make a bet on the sporting team,” he said. “It’s just so much easier these days, with technology and gaming, as well as in-app purchases. It’s just so easy to lose track of your money and spend more than you plan to.“
Hodgins said gambling addiction exists on a spectrum of mild, moderate and severe, and its triggers are complex. “As with any addiction, we know that genetics play a part, environment plays a major role, (and) emotional pain,” Hodgins said, adding if someone games when they’re stressed or upset, their brain could “make that connection between gambling and psychological relief.”
“When we’re talking about people’s favourite sports teams, there’s more emotion involved… and I know a lot of those apps have in-game betting allowed,” he said. “So, there’s really no limit to how much money someone could spend and how quick it could go.”
Hodgins said the golden rule of gambling is to always expect to lose. It’s also important to set limits. “Many apps designed for sports betting have that feature to set limits,” he said. “Make sure that you’re using it, and stick to your limits.”
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Hodgins also said that taking occasional breaks, only gambling for entertainment, and being in a good state of mind help avoid the risks of spending too much.
“Gambling can be extremely addictive. It really does produce a flood of dopamine to the brain,” he said.
Community Financial Counselling Services points to a number of signs that someone may have a gambling addiction. These include spending more time or money on gambling than someone can afford or had planned, skipping out on work or school, lying about the extent of their gambling, and gambling with money meant for basic needs like rent and food.
If you are concerned about your gambling and want help, Hodgins said you have options such as the St. Raphael Wellness Centre, Gamblers Anonymous, your health care provider, or individual counselling and therapy.
Addictions Foundation of Manitoba also offers support with a 24-hour Problem Gambling Helpline, which can be called at 1-800-463-1554 and lists potential resources.
“There’s still so much stigma surrounding addiction today,” Hodgins said, which doesn’t help the person struggling and contributes to them feeling shame. Shame, he said, only drives addiction because they use “gambling to cope with those feelings.”