For gambling addicts, Super Bowl wagers could bring ruin

For gambling addicts, Super Bowl wagers could bring ruin

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Super Bowl XLIX is coming up on Sunday. It's the world's biggest sports spectacle, and also the event with the heaviest bets. Legal betting will rake in over $100 million this year, but that's dwarfed by illegal betting, which may total $3.7 billion.

So for problem gamblers, the Super Bowl may be a the last chance for a big win. A loss could be especially catastrophic.

Think you're a big roller?

"I lost a hundred thousand dollars on one bet," said a man we're calling Al. He's the head of Gamblers Anonymous in Hawaii. He lost the 100 grand rolling dice.

"I had 4, and I did not make the 4. I threw a 7," he said. "And it's the worst feeling of your life. But if you make the 4, it's the best feeling of your life."

Al said he even had to ask his relatives for about a quarter of a million dollars to pay gambling debts. "During my 16 or 17 years gambling compulsively, we estimate that I lost over two million dollars."

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 10,000 people in Hawaii are pathological gamblers, those whose wagering has a severe negative effect of his or her job, relationships or mental health. Another 20,000 are problem gamblers, who wager despite possible negative consequences.

The Washington, D.C., group said last year, it received 2,759 calls for help from Hawaii because there are no local hotlines for gambling addiction. And since legal gambling doesn't exist in Hawaii, there's no public funding for treatment and prevention. Those programs could be useful on Monday, as Al expects hardcore gamblers to go big on Super Sunday.

"Football season is ending. The Super Bowl is the wrap up of this. So people are running out of games to bet on, and they can't recover all their losses and they can't bet enough to recover their season."

"I wouldn't be surprised if there were an increased number of people calling G.A. (Gamblers Anonymous) after the Super Bowl," said Dr. Robin-Marie Shepherd, a University of Auckland professor who has done research on gambling in Hawaii. "That would be interesting to find out if that's the case."

Meanwhile, Al is glad to have kicked the addiction:
"The two most important things in my life was my children and my wife, and I was willing to give that away to continue to gamble."
For help in Hawaii, Gamblers Anonymous has help here

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