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Op-Ed: Super Bowl Sunday -- A Good Time for Addicted Gamblers to Consider Future

Sports betting may not be legal in NJ, but it's here and it's taking a toll on the lives of compulsive gamblers

metlife stadium

With New Jersey hosting its first Super Bowl ever, excitement has been growing across the state. Even more importantly, betting is already under way, and, by the time of the game, many residents will have made a small bet with friends, family, coworkers, or even bookies. Sports betting may not yet be legal in New Jersey, but it definitely is here and has been for years.

For most people, a casual bet on the game is just that -- a chance to have some fun and see if the Broncos or Seahawks have what it takes to go all the way. But for the compulsive or problem gambler, much more may be at stake.

This may be the last chance to get even for the season. Or perhaps gambling on football and sports has become the only thing that really matters. Maybe it also has started to interfere with other areas of life, such as job, family, finances, emotional state, or thinking. Perhaps things look desperate and hopeless.

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of NJ offers a way out. We care, and we can help. Our 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) helpline is free and confidential. Anyone who thinks they might have a gambling problem (or who is concerned about someone else) can give us a call, any time of the day or night. The Council offers support and information, referrals to self-help groups, free or low-cost counseling, and most importantly, hope for recovery and a new life. Ten percent of our helpline calls are related to sports betting, and 35,000 people in New Jersey are believed to have similar problems.

Compulsive gambling is now recognized as an addiction, akin to alcohol or drugs. It is less obvious, but it definitely can interfere with all aspects of life. But, it doesn’t have to. I urge anyone who is hurting or struggling to reach out and talk with us. It may not be easy to do, but with that first step, things can start to change for the better.

People like Frank L. (14 years in recovery) or Dan T. (3 years and counting) have been there and are familiar with what our council offers. They know that recovery is possible and worth it. Each of them was an addicted sports bettor; today their lives are focused on trying to help others like themselves. There are many more stories of recovery like theirs.

I urge readers to ask themselves some honest questions if they think they might have a problem:

  • Does gambling have priority over other activities in your life?

  • Does gambling take time away from family and friends?

  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when not gambling?

+Does gambling affect your day-to-day financial condition?

If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, it may be time to follow through on that New Year’s resolution to cut down on gambling. Football will soon be over. Maybe it is time to think about making a change. Maybe it’s time to call 1-800-GAMBLER . . .

Donald Weinbaum is the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.

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