Super Bowl 58 is finally here and all bets are on. With the rapid rise in popularity of sports betting, it’s estimated that 26% of Americans will place a bet on the big game. This sudden surge has also led to an increase in gambling addiction across the nation, causing concern among some health professionals.
In Billings, Shooters Bar and Grill was buzzing with excitement as people like Wyatt Burns and Kevin Curley prepared for the Super Bowl. “I came here to have a beer and a shot, just to loosen up before the festivities begin,” said Burns on Sunday.
“And I bet big,” added Curley.
While these two fans may not be part of the growing number of people struggling with gambling addiction, it’s an issue that concerns many health professionals. “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 explained that this is equivalent to around 3.4 million Americans.
“One of the areas of concern is the ease of access with mobile platforms and those platforms often incentivizing getting started placing bets,” added Perdue.
Like alcohol or nicotine, addiction begins with compulsive changes to the brain and Montanans are not immune to this trend. “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.
However, experts like Perdue can only glean data from the past five years since sports betting was 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.
For Burns, it’s just 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 woken up the next morning and said, ah, let’s not do that again.”