As Super Bowl 58 approaches, the excitement builds with it. The rise in popularity of sports betting has led to a record-breaking 26% of Americans expected to bet on the big game. This meteoric rise has also contributed to a growing concern among health professionals about gambling addiction.
At Shooters Bar and Grill in Billings, Montana, people like Wyatt Burns and Kevin Curley are getting ready for the festivities. “Came to have a beer and a shot, just to kind of loosen up before the game begins,” said Burns on Sunday. “Makes the game more enjoyable to watch when you got a little money on the line,” added Curley.
While some may see gambling as a way to enhance their enjoyment of the game, others may be at risk of developing an addiction. According to Matt Perdue, medical director for Frontier Psychiatry in Billings, “Nationwide, as to the prevalence of the number of people that we suspect have a gambling disorder is about 1% of the population,” which translates to around 3.4 million Americans. Perdue added that one concern is “the ease of access with mobile platforms and those platforms often incentivizing getting started placing bets.”
Gambling addiction can begin with compulsive changes to the brain, and Montana is no exception. “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,” said Perdue. However, since sports betting was only legalized in 2019, experts like Perdue can only glean data from the past five years. Still, it’s an area that concerns them deeply enough to monitor closely as things unfold.