LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) – On Sunday, football fans across the country placed bets on who would come out on top for Super Bowl LVII. While place a bet may seem harmless to some, it can change peoples lives and not always for the better.
According to the American Gaming Association, a record number of 68 million Americans were expected to place bets for the Super Bowl. Last year, Americans wagered over $16 billion for the game. People recovering from gambling addiction said the game can be a launching point for more serious issues.
After years of dealing with a gambling addiction and eventually recovery, Mike Sciandra is now helping others who find it hard to turn down a bet.
“If they get a big win, or they feel some sort of rush off of that bet that could lead to more and more problems down the road,” Sciandra said.
Sciandra works as an education and outreach coordinator for Choices Treatment Center. He said he got caught up in the rush of gambling at a young age, and it took about 30 years before he realized he had a problem.
“For many years, I lived that way where I was active in my job active in my church active and volunteering,” Sciandra said. “But I still had this problem gambling on the side.”
It was when he went to a keno parlor in Omaha back in 2020 that it hit him. He was tired of gambling and the fallout that came with it. From there he reached out to the Nebraska Gambling hotline for help.
“The main problems that we see and we hear about from our clients is financial and relationships,” said David Geier, the executive director of the Nebraska Gamblers Assistance Program.
In 2022 Lincoln’s first casino, WarHorse, opened its doors. Since then, the state has also legalized sports betting, but it’s only legal at brick-and-mortar facilities with a casino teller or machine.
The Nebraska Gamblers Assistance Program said those changes have brought in more calls for help — essentially doubling in the last few years.
“The problems are getting worse instead of better,” Geier said.
For problem gamblers, the Super Bowl can make the idea of placing a bet hard to escape.
“There’s a lot of talk now, more and more about gambling. What are the odds? What’s the line? What’s the over and under? It doesn’t end,” Geier said.
For people suffering from problem gambling, or for those who know someone who is, the Nebraska Problem Gambling Helpline can be reached by calling 1-833-BETOVER (238-6837). Sciandra said people can also enroll in a voluntary self-exclusion program for Nebraska casinos.
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