Super Bowl 58 has arrived, and with it, the excitement of sports betting. A record-breaking 26% of Americans are expected to bet on the big game, thanks to the meteoric rise in popularity of sports gambling. This surge has also contributed to a rise in gambling addiction across the nation, which is a cause for concern among health professionals.
At Shooters Bar and Grill in Billings, people like Wyatt Burns and Kevin Curley were ready for some fun before the festivities began. Burns said he came to have a beer and a shot “just to kind of loosen up” before watching the game. “I bet big,” added Curley.
While Burns and Curley may not be part of the growing number of people experiencing an addiction to gambling, this is an area of concern for health professionals like Matt Perdue, medical director for Frontier Psychiatry in Billings. Perdue said that around 3.4 million Americans are estimated to have a gambling disorder nationwide, with one area of concern being the ease of access through mobile platforms that often incentivize getting started with placing bets.
Perdue explained how addiction begins with compulsive changes in the brain, and Montanans are not immune to this trend. “Montana’s really followed this nationwide trend over the past couple of years with setting records each year for revenue collected from gambling,” Perdue said. However, he noted that data only goes back five years since sports betting was legalized in 2019, so it’s difficult to determine how things will play out long-term.
For Burns, sports betting is just another way to have some fun while acknowledging that he doesn’t always win. He said he has self-control but has had losses where he woke up feeling guilty about his choices and vowed not to do it again.”