While college basketball fans are ramping up the excitement for this year’s March Madness tournament and what is expected to be a betting frenzy on the outcome, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is preparing for its 16th year of dedicating the month of March to helping people affected by problem gambling.

A statement from the council advised: “Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) is designed to achieve three goals: to increase public awareness of problem gambling; to increase the availability of prevention, treatment and recovery services; and to encourage healthcare providers to screen clients for problem gambling. This grassroots campaign brings together a wide range of stakeholders – public health organizations, advocacy groups and gambling operators – who work collaboratively to let people know that there is hope and help for this addiction.

PGAM will also include Gambling Disorder Screening Day on March 12, in collaboration with the Cambridge Health Alliance. Screening Day is an international movement designed to support health care providers in the identification of gambling disorder. This disorder leads to financial, emotional, social, occupational and physical harms, yet many cases go undetected due to limited assessment. Screening Day addresses this problem and provides tools to detect gambling-related problems as early as possible.

In addition, as March Madness reaches a crescendo with an estimated $10bn in bets placed on the NCAA basketball championship games, calls to the National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700) are predicted to spike an average of 40% during the month.

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of NCPG, cautioned: “March Madness is a time when we see an increase in gambling and more outreach for our services. PGAM is important to me – and NCPG as a whole – because we want to help individuals with problem gambling, and this is the peak time for raising awareness of the issue.”