Sports betting wagers rise as Mid-South college hoops progress in March Madness

Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 5:49 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - March Madness is in full swing, with Mid-South teams like the Arkansas Razorbacks, the Tennessee Volunteers and of course the Memphis Tigers to soon take part in the big dance’s second round of tournament play.

Coincidentally, March is also National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and with the fast-growing trend of online sports betting, addiction specialists are urging caution before dropping a pretty penny on your favorite teams.

There’s no question that it’s electric to be part of the madness in March, especially after the Tigers won their first tournament game in eight years.

With the weekend match-up against no. 1 seed Gonzaga, betting odds can be enticing for a passionate fan with money to burn.

“There’s a chance for betters to get a lot more bang for their buck, but that doesn’t obviously mean you should wager you entire month’s savings just because the odds look good,” said Alec Cunningham, Managing Editor for PlayTenn.com.

Online sports betting is still fairly new to the Mid-South, only launching in Tennessee in November of 2020, but Alec Cunningham is already seeing the trend in popularity.

“Last year, we had some $15.5 million wagered just on the Super Bowl, alone, and this year it was $20-something million,” Cunningham said.

“Gambling addiction is almost as powerful as a nicotine addiction because it appears so innocent. I’m not harming anyone,” said Norman Miller, President/CEO of Innovative Counseling & Consulting.

Miller is also seeing that trend, recognizing the threat online gambling poses if a better figuratively or literally ends up betting the farm.

“The rush they get form almost winning is so powerful that people might start out betting a little, just like cocaine,” he said. “They start out doing just a little bit, and before you know it your whole paycheck is gone.”

Both Miller and Cunningham say gambling can be good fun, but it’s important to look for help when needed.

“Individuals will first have to admit they have a problem, and then we can do a treatment plan,” Miller said. “Gambling is a behavioral addiction, but we address it the same.”

Since its launch, sports betting has resulted in $2.3 billion wagered, with the state of Tennessee taking a $35 million cut in tax revenue, 5% of that going toward fighting gambling addiction.

You can reach Innovative Counseling & Consulting at (901) 276-0220, or the TN Gambling Addiction Hotline (Tennessee Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (TAADAS)) at 800-889-9789.

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