Dan Trolaro is EPIC Global Solutions’ VP of prevention, and will mark 14 years since he started his journey of recovery following a devastating period of gambling addiction this Sunday; aptly timed to coincide with the Super Bowl, which will see millions of US adults staking billions in wagers between them.
The arrival of the Super Bowl in the gambling capital of the world this weekend provides an appropriate opportunity to reflect on how major sporting events create a surge in interest around wagering activities.
But whilst the majority of people placing a stake on the outcome of the action in Las Vegas (or micro-transactions on individual plays within the game) will be able to do without the sense of any long-term consequences, EPIC Global Solutions exist to ensure that the small but significant percentage of those people with a propensity for potential addiction to gambling are given early warning signs from those of us who didn’t get chance to see them for ourselves.
Every year since the repeal of PASPA ensured that states had the right to offer legalised sports wagering, we’ve seen increasing record numbers in terms of people and dollars engaged in Super Bowl wagering. This year looks like being no different, with the American Gaming Association projecting that 26% of US adults will place $23bn of Super Bowl bets between them this weekend.
In my case, I usually invested more into wagers around the opening weekend of the NFL than the Super Bowl – that came from the allure of so many match-ups to start the season and the feeling that I could use my knowledge of the game to do well out of the sportsbook – but I would always have something riding on the big game each February too.
I was placing my own money (and that of others – more on that later) on the biggest game in American Football long before the landscape changed and wagering on smartphones, tablets or laptops became such accepted practice, but there has always been a way to ensure you had something riding on the game. It’s now just so much easier to do, and that’s why we have to be on the front foot with prevention and education for the benefit of the people – and their families – for whom betting goes from a pastime to their entire way of life, with all the consequences that entails.
To cut a long story short, I stopped betting after nine years of intensive gambling activity, not because I wanted to, but needed to. The net was closing in after it had been uncovered that I had been using my clients’ funds from the insurance company where I worked to pay for my daily gambling activities and I was worried that the FBI was tapping my phone and tracking my activities.
My fear – which was later realised – was that I would go to prison for what I did, so I was shocked into stopping gambling. But though it took a very severe intervention for that to happen, that turn of events has happened for a reason, because it now means that I can join other amazing people at EPIC to help educate about the potential dangers that gambling can entail.
People will focus on the fact that this year we have a Las Vegas Super Bowl and that finally the bond between the NFL and legalised sports wagering is finally sealed, with an increase in the exposure that the game will provide to sportsbook brands. However, even in an organisation like ours where so many people have been harmed by gambling, we have to look at this event in a very pragmatic way.
It’s not for us to tell people not to gamble. That would be the wrong approach, because telling somebody not to do something will often tempt them to do the opposite. We also know that having a side wager on the game is something that is ever-increasingly accepted as part of the event’s culture and won’t have any significant financial or emotional impact on most of those who have money on the game, even if they back a loser.
Our challenge, for those who have a past that involves gambling-related harm, is to tell our story in such a way that it carries impact for those who can gamble safely – giving them an incentive to look out for signs of harm in others and offer support where they can – and holds a mirror up to those in the smaller group who may not yet have had a realisation that they need to reach out for help before it’s too late.
The date of this year’s Super Bowl is pertinent to my story, because it falls on February 11; the same date, 14 years to the day, since my journey to recovery started when my sports wagering came to a sudden halt. I’m delighted that something good has come from the time that has elapsed since, and that my lived experience gives me the platform to be able to offer advice and education to others who may be in the same place that I was without even realising it.
VP of Prevention, EPIC Global Solutions