What’s not to love about fantasy football? Right? I mean, you get together with your buddies for a fun, rowdy draft party once a year (or twice, if you sign on for fantasy baseball, too!) and then you trade good-natured trash-talking jabs throughout the season as your team is pitted against the team of a different friend every week. It gives you an excuse to watch every game, and keeping up with all of the league’s injury reports and player stats is a fun hobby. And then, as if the camaraderie and sportsmanship weren’t reward enough, whosever team wins the playoffs scores a pile of cash from the pot that everyone chipped into at the beginning of the season. Score!
Good, clean, harmless fun.
Except when it’s not.
Fantasy sports are a gateway drug for compulsive gamblers. Beyond this traditional play-against-your-buddies-for-the-season model, which in and of itself can be troublesome for people addicted to gambling, the more recent trend of daily fantasy games can cause serious problems.
The daily fantasy sports industry, which has seen explosive growth in the last couple of years, is extremely well marketed and extremely under-regulated. As a result, sites like DraftKings and FanDuel are luring – and creating – more compulsive gamblers every day. The appeal, especially for a devoted sports fan, is understandable: with a few clicks of the mouse, the user can draft players to create a team for a game that is happening tonight or this weekend and if the players do well enough, the user wins big, right away. The immediacy of the reward and the potential for a sizeable payout are the lynchpin of the sites’ allure. But they are also poison in the veins of a person who is addicted to gambling and cannot control his (or her) compulsion to put more and more money on the line.
The public debate about the legality of this type of “gaming” (as fantasy sports officials refer to their brand of gambling) began to bubble up several years ago and now many lawmakers are pushing for tighter regulations on the industry. A few states have passed laws along those lines, but industry leaders continue to vehemently deny that fantasy sports should be considered gambling, touting the games’ entertainment value and claiming that users rely more on skill than on luck.
So, the problem remains: Ubiquitous daily fantasy sports ads shout about the “millions of dollars up for grabs this week!” and the astronomical numbers of people who have “already won big!” The companies are shelling out who-knows-how-much-money on direct-marketing to gamblers, sending messages straight to their inboxes or social media accounts with enticing sign-on discounts and promises of an exciting, exhilarating, high-reward, easy-to-use experience.
And all of these impossible-to-resist messages about fantasy sports gambling amount to a virtual nightmare for compulsive gamblers. The companies know the weaknesses of problem gamblers and are playing directly to those vulnerabilities. Even people who are in active recovery from gambling addiction find themselves falling victim to the lure of daily fantasy sports, like this guy from Alabama who has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to the disease of gambling addiction.
Treatment for gambling addiction is tough—there’s no denying that. But it’s doable. A compulsive gambler battles a similar chemical reaction to the high of gambling as a person who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, and often it’s even stronger. But caring, consistent, clinical treatment can help redirect that high.
At Prescott House, located in Prescott, Ariz., we have an addiction counselor on staff who specializes in gambling addiction. She has completed the training to be a National Certified Gambling Counselor and she is passionate about getting to the root of each client’s addiction and helping the person (re)discover his own strengths to regain control of his life.
If you or someone you love has a gambling problem, call us. We want to get you off the bet and back on the path to living a happy, productive life.