Gambling addiction help is available: 1-800-GAMBLE
CHICAGO (WLS) -- March Madness is upon us and analysis expect hundreds of millions of dollars in sports bets in Illinois alone, but March is also problem gambling awareness month.
ABC7 talked to a gambler in recovery about how you can seek help and what he expects as sports betting becomes even easier.
Illini fans were enjoying the game Friday before the loss.
"We're hoping to start off a little bit better by beating Indiana and getting off to a hot start," said Illini fan, Chris Herrera.
With all of the basketball comes big bucks.
Gambling analysts at PlayIllinois.com said sportsbooks in January set a new high of $870 million in wages. They're expecting even more in March, and new rules in Illinois make it easier than ever. Sports betters can now place online sportsbook bets without having to register at a casino in person first.
"Now it's really easy for anyone to sign up," said fellow Illini fan, Ruben Torres.
"Super easy," added fellow fan, Steven Gray. "Wake up in the morning, check the lines, see if they change throughout the day."
That ease of use has some former problem gamblers concerned.
"It's a lot quicker path to distraction today than it was when I came in just because of that. You have so many different ways you can gamble," said Brian Brost with Gambler's Anonymous.
Brost has been in recovery with Gambler's Anonymous for 24 years. He lost money, but more importantly his marriage of 30 years, because of his disease.
"Not only did it cost me money, but it cost me a lot of different things you can never get back," he said.
He said the ease and ubiquity of online betting is worrisome for the 2-4% of gamblers that develop a problem.
"When you're a compulsive gambler, your life is like Groundhog Day. That's all you do," Brost said.
The Illinois Council on Problem Gambling said the number of calls for help are going up.
According to the council, there were 401 gamblers calling for help in Illinois in 2020. That jumped up to 750 last year.
All helpline calls also went up by close to 3,000 from 2020 to last year.
"The treatment agencies tell me they're seeing an increase in young adult males that are calling in asking for some type of help," said Bill Johnson, administrator for Illinois Council on Problem Gambling. "We've seen an increase in calls but as more people are exposed to gambling, that 2 to 4% of people that are exposed will increase."
If you need help with problem gambling, there is help available. Check out the websites below or call the gambling help hotline at 1-800-GAMBLE.