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NFL kickoff brings sports gambling addiction worries

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Availability of gambling through mobile app has addiction experts concerned

FILE – In this March 21, 2019, file photo, gamblers line up to place bets on the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City N.J. This is the first March Madness tournament since legal gambling expanded last year in the U.S. The spread of legalized sports betting is largely following regional boundaries. Lawmakers across the Northeast and upper Midwest have generally approved it or are still considering doing so this year. But in the Deep South and far West, fewer states are rushing in a year after the US Supreme Court cleared the way for legal sports betting nationally. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The wait for the NFL season is over and heavy gambling is coming along with kickoff.

The 2019 campaign starts Thursday evening as the Green Bay Packers travel to take on the Chicago Bears. A full slate of games is scheduled for Sunday.

According to a study released this week by the American Gambling Association, an estimated 15 million Americans are expected to place bets on pro football this season. Gambling on sports is now legal in 13 states, including Oregon.

KOIN 6 News reported Wednesday that people in Oregon wishing to bet on NFL games, and any sports, will have to wait a bit longer.

The Oregon Lottery, who is overseeing sports gambling in the state, is still working on perfecting the mobile app that will allow people to place bets.

“At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure we get this right,” said Matt Shelby, the Public Information Manager for the Oregon Lottery. “We would rather get it right than rush to get it out and having to pull it to fix it.”

Shelby told KOIN Wednesday that they hope to release the mobile app in late September or early October.

Whenever sports betting goes live in Oregon, officials estimate $300 million will be wagered by gamblers in the state the first year. That number and the easy access to gambling have addiction specialists concerned.

They say, by using a mobile app for sports betting, the state of Oregon about to drop a new vice into everyone’s pockets.

“This is going to be a new wrinkle,” said Phillip Yassenoff, Program Manager Cascadia Gambling Treatment Program. “To this point, an individual had to go somewhere. Now that access is going to be so immediate and constant.”

One of the big problems that can come along with sports gambling addiction is how it hides. Unlike cigarettes, there is no smell. Unlike binge drinking, changes in behavior can be tougher to see. Unlike marijuana use, the app makes it available anytime, anywhere.

It is that ease of access that has experts like Yassenoff concerned about the potential for abuse and addiction.

“It will be much harder for people to say no to this because it is going to be in their pocket,” he said.

Gambling addiction experts say because of the way this particular addiction can hide, it is very important for friends and family to be paying attention.

“Behavior changes are more subtle,” Yassenoff said.

Some signs of problem or addictive sports gambling behavior include lying to friends and family, asking to borrow money without giving a reason, reluctance to talk about money, stealing or committing fraud, obsession with sporting events that they have no apparent connection to and, somewhat strangely, decreased interest in what were their favorite teams.

“Sports betting tends to change people’s relationship with the sports they love,” Yassenoff said. “Once it is about the gambling itself, it is about the action, not the game. They lose something that is important to them.”

People who develop an addiction to sports gambling tend to be moody, irritable, distracted and absent.

“Folks get very attached to their gambling like they do to other addictive things,” Yassenoff said. “It is an abusive relationship. But, it still a relationship that matters to the addict.”

Addiction experts say it is very important for those who want to enjoy gambling to set time and money limits, be honest with friends and family about money won and lost, and seek help if needed.

If you or someone you know needs help, it is available. Check out the resources from the Cascadia Gambling Treatment Program. You can also contact the Oregon Problem Gambling Resource at 1-877-MY-LIMIT or click here to visit their website.

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Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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