ValueOptions(R) Experts: Harmless Fun for Most, March Madness Office Pools Can Trigger Compulsive Gambling

Mar 16, 2010, 11:10 ET from ValueOptions, Inc.

NORFOLK, Va., March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- In this week of March Madness office pools across the country, chances are that laying down five bucks and picking the winner of New Mexico State vs. Michigan State isn't going to turn you into a compulsive gambler.

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But some people aren't so fortunate, say experts at ValueOptions, the leading independent behavioral health company in the nation.

For one or two percent of the population, the excitement of risking even $5 on NCAA predictions could lead to more frequent, higher risk gambling.

"For the vast majority, it's just a fun thing to do once a year," said Rich Paul, vice president of Health & Performance Solutions, a ValueOptions division that provides employee-assistance plans to Fortune 500 companies. "But office pools for some individuals can be a trigger for a more severe compulsive gambling problem."

As many as eight out of 100 teens or college students -- especially males -- could become pathological gamblers, said Todd Kasdan, a medical director with ValueOptions, citing the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

"I'm sure there are a lot of parents of adolescent boys who are concerned," Kasdan said. "That's one of the negatives of our saturation of media -- the poker tournaments, the point spreads, online gambling and odds-making Web sites -- individuals geared that way can be pulled toward compulsive gambling."

The FBI estimates that more than $2.5 billion will be bet on the college basketball tournament, second only to wagering on the Super Bowl.

Kasdan said if concerned about a friend or relative, look for these signs:

  • A pre-occupation with gambling, planning how to get money, always glancing at sports scores on TV, even meaningless games, and constantly going online to get tips and information.
  • Jeopardizing relationships: Skipping meals with the family, coming late to a wedding, arriving late to work (in most cases, it will be unstated that the person was watching a game or placing a wager).
  • After a while, legal trouble: Eventually, everyone loses money and wants to "chase" the loss by winning the next bet. The person might forge a check, steal, embezzle, or somehow wind up in legal trouble.

With that said, Kasdan and Paul note that most people are merely "social gamblers." If you fill out the brackets, pick a couple of Super Bowl "squares" and even throw down a little money once a year in Vegas, it's probably harmless fun.

"I would say that betting on one or two March Madness pools is certainly not a disorder," Kasdan said. Kasdan himself enters a pool, and despite the odds against a no. 5 seed, will pick his Michigan State Spartans to go all the way.

About ValueOptions®, Inc.

ValueOptions®, Inc., the nation's largest independent behavioral health and wellness company, provides services to more than 22 million individuals through a variety of contracts with state and county agencies and, additionally, with health plans and employers. ValueOptions® is a national behavioral health and wellness company that specializes in management for all behavioral health issues and promotes health and wellness through innovative programs. The mission of ValueOptions is to improve the health and wellness for the people it serves.

SOURCE ValueOptions, Inc.