Problem gambling becomes a concern ahead of March Madness

March Madness Problem Gambling
Image: Shutterstock / Rokas Tenys

March provides excitement for sports fans across America but the month also provides a unique opportunity to advocate for responsible gambling.

In 2023, Americans wagered approximately $15.5 billion on the men’s NCAA Tournament from a record 68 million people who either placed bets or participated in bracket contests.

March Madness has been a staple in American sports culture but the emergence of regulated sports betting across the country has led to calls for responsible gambling.

“While most can place bets without it becoming an addiction, between 2-4 million Americans will experience a gambling disorder in their lifetime, likely more, considering this data is often outdated and suffers from insufficient funding from comprehensive research. Existing studies offer only a superficial understanding of the problem,” said Dr. James P. Whelan, Ph.D., Professor & Director at The Institute for Gambling Education and Research.

The willingness to address these issues comes during Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM), which coincides with one of the largest sports events of the year.

A slew of wagering options

March Madness offers bettors 67 games to wager on over the course of several weeks, providing ample opportunity for instances of problem gambling to occur. The abundance of games combined with the accessibility of online wagering platforms can create issues.  

“The thrill of ongoing days of endless betting options can quickly turn into a downward spiral if you aren’t practicing responsible gambling strategies,” continued Dr. Whelan.

Gambling organizations leading by example

Operators and groups across America are being proactive to combat problem gambling ahead of March Madness and a busy remaining sports calendar in 2024.

Last week, FanDuel vowed to donate $300,000 in light of PGAM. The operator plans to allocate $150,000 toward the National Council on Problem Gambling and another $150,000 to the International Center for Responsible Gaming. FanDuel has also joined a Kindbridge Behavioral Health program aimed at supporting players who self-exclude.

The Gambling Clinic is also being proactive by providing “12 Tips for Responsible March Madness Betting” and additional resources for gamblers to seek support and guidance.