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Gambling disorders on the rise nationwide after legalization of sports betting

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Posted at 5:50 PM, Feb 11, 2024

BILLINGS — Super Bowl 58 has arrived and that means all bets are on. With the rise in popularity of sports betting, a record-breaking 26% of Americans are expected to bet on the big game. That meteoric rise has contributed to a rise in gambling addiction across the nation, concerning some health professionals.

In Billings, Shooters Bar and Grill was brimming with excitement as folks like Wyatt Burns and Kevin Curley prepared for the Super Bowl.

“Came to have a beer and a shot, just to kind of loosen up before the festivities begin,” said Burns on Sunday.

 You can bet these 49ers fans aren't just watching the game for the football.

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Wyatt Burns and Kevin Curley at Shooters Bar and Grill

“Makes the game more enjoyable to watch when you got a little money on the line,” Burns said.

“I bet big” added Curley.

Luckily, the pair isn't part of that growing number of people experiencing an addiction to gambling.

“Nationwide, as to the prevalence of the number of people that we suspect have a gambling disorder, is about 1% of the population,” said Matt Perdue, medical director for Frontier Psychiatry in Billings.
 
Perdue said that's around 3.4 million Americans.

“One of the areas of concern is the ease of access with the mobile platforms and those platforms often incentivizing getting started placing bets,” added Perdue.

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Matt Perdue of Frontier Psychiatry

Just like with alcohol or nicotine, addiction begins with compulsive changes to the brain and Montanans aren't immune.

“Montana’s really followed this nationwide trend over the past couple of years with setting records each and every year for the revenue that they’re collecting from gambling,” Perdue said.

Worrisome as Perdue and other experts can only glean data from the past five years since sports betting was only legalized in 2019.

“I think absolutely it’s an area of concern for us to monitor and really see how things play out,” said Perdue.

But for Burns, it's another way to have some fun, even if he doesn't always win.

“For the most part, I’ve got self control. I’ve had a few losses where I’ve woke up the next morning and said, ah, let’s not do that again,” Burns quipped.