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March Madness can spell trouble
for gamblers, warns psychologist
(March 22, 1999)

When March Madness storms through Connecticut this month, hundreds of people will place bets on every round until the final championship on March 29. For problem gamblers, however, three solid weeks of NCAA qualifying games can be very troublesome, a Health Center psychologist warns.

"March Madness has become a major betting event," says Nancy Petry of the UConn Health Center. "Last year, Americans placed more than $60 million on NCAA bets, far surpassing the amount bet on the Superbowl."

"For most people, participating in a pool on the NCAA games is harmless fun and poses no problems. But an estimated 10 percent of bettors will take this beyond the office pool. Over the next three weeks, they'll lose their shirts, their houses, their cars - and more," Petry says.

She says that problem gamblers are at higher risk for financial woes, family and relationship strains and suicide. In Connecticut, one in five adolescents and one in 20 adults suffer from serious gambling problems, she says, noting that problem gamblers come from diverse social, economic and cultural backgrounds.

In light of the tremendous human costs associated with gambling problems, Petry has started the country's first organized study of treatment options for problem gamblers. Working in conjunction with the Compulsive Gambling Treatment program in Middletown, Petry will measure the efficacy of three outpatient treatment options for gamblers.

Through the study, participants are offered free confidential outpatient care for eight weeks. For more information call (860) 679-2177.

Maureen McGuire