Whether you scored seats to watch your favorite team battle it out on the court or are hosting a watch party from the comfort of your living room, we are guessing that you, along with many other Americans, will be tuned in to the excitement that is March Madness. While this tournament is a great time to celebrate the sport you love with your favorite watching buddies, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling (FCCG) knows it can also be a dangerous time for those at risk of problem gambling as legal and illegal sports bets are placed in The Sunshine State.
Before we launch into basketball fans’ favorite few weeks of the year, we encourage you to keep reading to learn more about the realities of sports gambling and how to practice responsible gambling as this season comes to a spectacular close.
It’s no coincidence that Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) also takes place in March. When this initiative was launched 20 years ago, it was only a weeklong and inspired by the surge in sports bets placed during the NCAA’s legendary March Madness Basketball tournament. In 2022 alone, it was estimated that 45 million American adults would bet on the outcome of the games. Those bets would total over $3.1 billion, including bets placed legally and illegally. This year, it’s projected that $6 billion will be legally gambled during March Madness. 
Now a full month, PGAM is a culmination of efforts across various organizations working together from all over the nation to raise awareness about problem gambling and to connect people who are in need of help with the resources they need for recovery. While online sports gambling is still illegal in Florida, those who find themselves gambling too much should be aware of the risks of even seemingly casual betting among friends and coworkers.
This year, the PGAM theme is “The Game of Life: Choose Your Path,” and when you click here you can play an interactive card game the FCCG created based on a gambling industry employee’s ideation. During this game, just like in life, players will be faced with important decisions and challenged to choose the next right step. We want to stress that when (GAMBLING IS NO LONGER A GAME, LOSING IS NOT AN OPTION). Before any wagers are set on Selection Sunday, we want to provide the background information needed to make the responsible choice. For example, did you know the odds of picking the perfect bracket is 2 to the 63rd power? That means there is a 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 chance— that’s 1 in 9.2 quintillion! 
For those who choose to take part in wagering during the tournament, we want to make sure all participants are practicing responsible gambling behaviors so that these games stay what they should be — fun. Some tips to keep in mind during the tournament and in any gambling setting include:
- Taking frequent breaks in play and set time limits
- If you’re no longer having fun, stop playing
- Don’t chase losses
- Don’t depend on “good luck” strategies
- Don’t think of it as way to make money
- Don’t gamble with essential funds
- Don’t gamble when upset, stressed, or under the influence 
This year PGAM and March Madness season, we can all use a reminder to take a step back and unplug from the madness. While opportunities to gamble on the games are available 24/7, so is 888-ADMIT-IT, Florida’s multilingual and confidential HelpLine that helps those struggling with problem gambling and their loved ones get connected to resources for Your One Sure Thing, recovery.
- “45 Million Americans to Wager $3.1B on March Madness.” American Gaming Association, 13 Mar. 2022, https://www.americangaming.org/new/45-million-americans-to-wager-3-1b-on-march-madness/
- “Betting on March Madness Tournament to Top $3 Billion, Gambling Group Predicts.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 14 Mar. 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/march-madness-tournament-sports-betting-gambling/
- Wilco, Daniel. “The Absurd Odds of a Perfect NCAA Bracket.” NCAA.com, NCAA.com, 13 Mar. 2022, https://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/bracketiq/2022-03-10/perfect-ncaa-bracket-absurd-odds-march-madness-dream#:~:text=As%20such%2C%20the%20number%20of,correctly%201%20in%209.2%20quintillion.
- “Tips to Keep Your Gambling Safe: Safer Play: For the Public: Responsible Gambling Council.” Tips to Keep Your Gambling Safe | Safer Play | For the Public | Responsible Gambling Council, https://www.responsiblegambling.org/for-the-public/safer-play/safer-gambling-tips/.