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Experts: Gambling, mobile gaming issues similar

Posted at 10:31 PM, Feb 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-10 23:36:54-05

Betting on football and boxing may not be so different from playing Game of War and Candy Crush as you might think.

February and March is considered the biggest gambling season of the year since about $4 billion is bet on the Super Bowl each year.  Only $100 million of it is wagered legally.

The betting game has changed because of cell phones.  Whether it's an online overseas website or Draftkings and Fan Duel, which in some states is considered gambling, it's always in your pocket.

"The problem becomes because of the accessibility it is always in front of you,” said Matt Anselmo.  "For certain people making a simple wager is no big deal and for other people addiction is very much a mental health disorder.  It's something that they need to be aware of. It’s something that you're not cured from; it's something you need to be able to manage."

Anselmo is all too familiar with the downfalls of problem gambling.  He was in the military, worked law enforcement, and later owned an apparel company all while being addicted to gambling.  He served 3 years in federal prison for mail fraud because of his problem.

But it's not the only type of game that can be considered gambling on your cell phone.

Keellia Guevara of Heartland Family Service says the booming popularity of cell phone gaming have researchers looking at the similarities between gambling and these mobile games.

Though the games are free to download statistics say apps like candy crush, game of war, and mobile strike are making upwards of 1 million dollars a day from players making in-app purchases.

"That very, very clearly mirrors that same response that's going on in a gambler's mind when they're at a slot machine.  It's that I want to keep playing because maybe the next button, maybe the next play, maybe the next bet, maybe the next card is going to be the one that wins,” said Guevara a Gambling Prevention Specialist with HFS.

The signs of a mobile gaming addict are similar to problem gambling.

"If you're lying about how much time you're playing, if you're using money and kind of sneaking that money, borrowing money, lying about how much money you're spending that's a big sign,” Guevara explained.

Just as Anselmo has been able to control his gambling addiction for the last 5 years there's hope if you've got a problem with mobile gaming.

"No matter how desperate things get there's hope, and as long as you're invested in yourself, and as long as you have faith you're going to be able to manage it," Anselmo concluded.

Heartland Family Service has a 24/7 Problem Gambling Crisis Line at (866)-322-1407.  They also have programs to help problem gamblers and their families at: http://heartlandfamilyservice.org/

The Nebraska Gamblers Assistance Program is another place where people can get help quickly.  Visit https://problemgambling.nebraska.gov/ for more information.