Michael Osborne is the director of Harbour Pointe, a residential treatment facility for compulsive gamblers, in Baltimore. Osborne, who used to be a compulsive gambler, helps spread awareness and treatment for gambling addictions. He spends most of his workday answering the gambling hotline (1-800-LOST-BET) to help those who need it most.
Can casual gambling on the Super Bowl and NCAA Tournament be a gateway to compulsive gambling?
Absolutely. The Super Bowl is their first wager. We also see the 800 hotline number pick up in the weeks during and after the Super Bowl. It's the same for March Madness. It is the hidden addiction. The thing is, it can get you in the grips and you don't know you are seeing it. People aren't going to see warning signs, like seeing it in your eyes or on your breath.
What is the lure of gambling?
It starts with the high of winning. As the addiction evolves, it's not about the money, it's about the action. It's in seeking that high. Like drugs, you keep progressing. You aren't going to get the same rush betting $50 as you are going to get betting $500. The problem is with relapse and addiction. When you do relapse, you go right back to where you left off, and not start off small again.
What impact does Internet gambling have?
In a matter of a few years, I think that Internet gambling will be legal here in the states and move here from offshore locations. They will keep it here to regulate it. Look at Maryland: They brought in the lottery and the state becomes a compulsive gambler now by bringing in slots. Enough is never enough.
How do you spot someone with a gambling addiction?
It's difficult. If there is a lot of undivided attention on sporting games, and if the person is on the edge for the final score when the game is well in hand. The signs also are if bill collectors continually are calling and there are new loan statements and credit cards. Many times, family and friends don't find out until it's too late.
What's your advice for betting on the Super Bowl?
Bet with your head and not over it. Only wager what you can expect or afford to lose. Don't try to bet to pay the mortgage or the power bill. --Dave Carey