Minimizing March Madness

March 11, 2014

Keith Whyte
Executive Director
National Council on Problem Gambling 

Everyone knows that “March Madness” refers to the NCAA Basketball Tournament. While there are over nine quintillion possible brackets, serious bettors and casual fans alike bet on the games. The tournament has become one of the biggest betting events of the year. We believe it is time to make sure that the behavioral health workforce and the general public understands some who bet will develop problems and that these problems are serious but treatable.

NCPG invites professionals in the addictions treatment and recovery services field to participate in National Problem Gambling Awareness Month (NPGAM). NPGAM is a grassroots public awareness and outreach campaign to educate the general public and health care professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and raise awareness about the help that is available both locally and nationally. For campaign materials and more information, please visit 

When problem gambling became re-classified as a behavioral addiction in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) last year, it was important to reach concerned citizens and healthcare professionals to educate them about the newly classified addiction and available resources, including brief screens.

Why participate in the campaign?  Why should you screen your clients for gambling addiction? Consider the following:  Adult problem gamblers are five times more likely to have co-occurring alcohol dependence, four times more likely to abuse drugs, three times more likely to be depressed, eight times more likely to have bipolar disorder, three times more likely to experience an anxiety disorder and have significantly elevated rates of tachycardia, angina, cirrhosis. High-risk groups include veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Through the use of brief screens and early interventions to address the myriad of emotional, physical and financial problems created by gambling addictions, significant reductions in service demand and costs associated with intensive treatment interventions will be realized. By providing therapeutic approaches that are appropriate for problem gamblers and their families, it is hypothesized that recovery rates will increase for a wide variety of health, substance abuse and mental health disorders given the significant rate of co-occurring disorders.

We therefore encourage all healthcare providers to screen all their clients for gambling addiction in March (and throughout the year). Screening for gambling-related history and symptoms is justified because of the prevalence and potential severity of gambling addiction, the potential to improve client outcomes, the possibility of preventing relapse or transference, and the low costs/high benefits of detecting a co-occurring gambling addiction. Screening and brief intervention has been proven to be an effective intervention in a number of areas and may help you minimize the impact of this hidden addiction on your clients and communities.

Learn more about problem gambling through the ATTC Network's Problem Gambling Webinar Series

 Keith S. Whyte became the Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) in October 1998.  NCPG is the national advocate for programs and services to assist problem gamblers and their families. 

Previously, Mr. Whyte served as Director of Research for the American Gaming Association where he was responsible for research and public policy issues, including problem gambling.  Mr. Whyte has written numerous articles, studies and book chapters on gaming issues.  In addition, he has testified four times before the United States Congress on gambling-related legislation.  He regularly discusses gaming issues in national and international print, radio and broadcast media.

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