Win or lose, it didn’t matter to me, it just set me up to bet again.”
If you or your loved ones has a gambling problem, help can be found at the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Mark Erickson always craved a piece of the action — so the accountant from Phoenix started betting on sports over the Internet.
The situation became so dire, that Erickson contemplated killing himself. “It’s American, like apple pie. “The miracles I’ve experienced. I got myself into this. The college bowl games this weekend lead to the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. Then, it’s March Madness, where many participate in an office betting pool.. He credits a 12-step program to helping him overcome his problem, and he has not gambled in almost four years.
“I became this person I didn’t know,” he said. Drawn in by the popularity of poker, half of all men in college are gambling on an monthly basis — even though betting on sports is illegal everywhere in the U.S. There are an estimated 6 million people who deal with the problem in the United States. People love to bet on it. As gambling on the Internet becomes more popular and more sites crop up, those numbers are expected to increase.
It is now high season for sports betting. Desperate, he began stealing from his clients. He considered going to Mexico and if he couldn’t kill himself there, he’d pay someone else to do it, he said.
“Life is great,” Erickson said. The sharing of experiences with friends, family, like I’ve never seen before. The lining up the money, the handicapping of the game, the betting of the game, the watching of the game. “It becomes an all-consuming activity. “But I thought this must be what I have to do. These are things that I avoided my whole life, not choosing to be a part of, but today I cherish them.”
After 23 days on the run, Erickson turned himself in. except Nevada.
“I think it’s a devastating illness, it’s an illness that if it’s not treated, it will end up that the person’s whole lifestyle will be affected,” said Ed Looney, executive director of Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.
But soon, it spiraled out of control.
“Sports betting is the rock of Gibraltar,” Looney said.
“I’ve heard other people compare it to a cocaine addiction, the high you get from that, and that’s the euphoria I felt,” he said. He served a year in prison and now works for a compulsive gambling helpline. People love to bet on their football games.”
‘A Devastating Illness’
Erickson is a compulsive gambler, a condition just as dangerous and debilitating as drug or alcohol addiction. That will always be there. And when they caught on, he left his family and fled.
The problem is affecting younger people as well. By some estimates, $7 billion is wagered on the Super Bowl alone in casinos, online and with bookies.
Three and a half years ago, Erickson accrued $400,000 in gambling debts. I got to get myself out of it.
Nevertheless, the industry rakes in mind-boggling amounts of cash