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Introducing Bryan Ricci: bringing a smile to a serious message

The news that EPIC Global Solutions is bringing a stand-up comedian on board to educate student-athletes on the potentially harmful side-effects of gambling is no joke: it’s a unique opportunity to ensure that a serious message lands with an impressionable young audience.

As anyone who has ever delivered a public speech will attest, you need your audience on side to make a lasting impression, so in the form of Bryan Ricci – a man who has spent 15 years making people laugh – EPIC now has a member of the team who knows all about timing the perfect delivery to ensure that everyone goes home remembering the pertinent one-liners.

“I want to fuse that ability to entertain an audience with helping as many people as possible, by arming them with the information they need at a time when gambling is so accessible,” he confirms, speaking a year on from placing his last bet in a stop-start relationship with gambling that had troubled him for decades. “As I learned, it takes up your time, it’s not productive for your career, and it messes up relationships – you burn bridges and you’re asking people for loans. I want to be as successful at doing this as I should have been in my previous careers.”

Having been drawn into the buzz of the gambling-like effects of trying to find valuable rookie cards among packs of sports cards as a kid, the New York native cites a family holiday to Puerto Rico as where his financial gambling journey started. The absence of ID checks at a casino with a theoretical age limit of 18 gave him access to his first win at just 14 years old, as he recalls: “I played roulette with my mom, hit my number right off the bat, and that sparked my interest in gambling.”

Finding a bookie once he was back at high school, Bryan found that he had a taste for success in sports wagering, and got good at covering up his actions; a pattern that continued through to college, where he was kicker for the Arizona State University football team.

“The Indian casinos were a short drive away, and I found myself spending more time there, learning the ins and outs of poker,” he explains.

“It took losing my dad to cancer in ‘99 for me to wake up and realize I needed help. Since then, I’ve been on the road to recovery, with a few bumps along the way due to getting complacent or not staying on top of my game. But all those tough lessons have made me stronger and more determined to stay on the right path.”

It was the regular losses and the negative impact on his mental health that brought Bryan to the realization that gambling wasn’t the right pursuit for him, long after he’d also discovered that his career path wasn’t going to take him into pro football: “Though I knew where to stand behind the coach to get myself on TV,” he jokes.

That desire to be noticed made professional comedy an obvious opening for a man with sharp wit and an experience of the knocks that life can bring, but occasionally also help to generate good material for time on stage – though he admits that he never directly created comic material about his own gambling, as it was ‘too tough while he was still in it’.

Having performed at leading venues across the US and UK, been on military tours to entertain the troops, and made numerous TV appearances along the way, Bryan is hoping to bring a smile to the faces of student-athletes and staff at NCAA colleges as he sets out on his next career path – this time trading the clubs and theaters for lecture halls and sports arenas as he delivers a new routine, steeped in lived experience.

“I can’t wait to hit the road and connect with student-athletes all over the country,” he admits. “We’re living in a pivotal time where gambling is becoming more accepted and available than ever before. If society is going to embrace it, then we owe it to everyone to understand the risks and how to stay safe.”

And why EPIC? “Joining EPIC feels like I’ve found my calling in life,” he concludes. “Not only can I make a positive impact, but it’s going to be a fulfilling journey for me too. So often in addiction, you have to hide your addiction from your employer, but my past is why I got hired here. My own recovery will only get stronger by helping others.”

Representatives from NCAA colleges – such as ADs, compliance officers or wellbeing leads – who have read this feature and are keen to book a visit from a member of our lived experience team to address your student-athletes and staff on campus can contact Simon Wootton ( for more details on our gambling harm prevention education programme.

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