“Life is great,” Erickson said. He credits a 12-step program to helping him overcome his problem, and he has not gambled in almost four years.
It is now high season for sports betting. I got myself into this.
Nevertheless, the industry rakes in mind-boggling amounts of cash. “It’s American, like apple pie. Then, it’s March Madness, where many participate in an office betting pool.
“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.
If you or your loved ones has a gambling problem, help can be found at the National Council on Problem Gambling.
Three and a half years ago, Erickson accrued $400,000 in gambling debts. “But I thought this must be what I have to do. He served a year in prison and now works for a compulsive gambling helpline. That will always be there. These are things that I avoided my whole life, not choosing to be a part of, but today I cherish them.”
Mark Erickson always craved a piece of the action — so the accountant from Phoenix started betting on sports over the Internet.
“Sports betting is the rock of Gibraltar,” Looney said. “It becomes an all-consuming activity. 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. People love to bet on it. Desperate, he began stealing from his clients. By some estimates, $7 billion is wagered on the Super Bowl alone in casinos, online and with bookies.
But soon, it spiraled out of control.
“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. As gambling on the Internet becomes more popular and more sites crop up, those numbers are expected to increase.
The situation became so dire, that Erickson contemplated killing himself. He considered going to Mexico and if he couldn’t kill himself there, he’d pay someone else to do it, he said.
The problem is affecting younger people as well. People love to bet on their football games.”. There are an estimated 6 million people who deal with the problem in the United States. The college bowl games this weekend lead to the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl. “The miracles I’ve experienced. Win or lose, it didn’t matter to me, it just set me up to bet again.”
“I became this person I didn’t know,” he said. And when they caught on, he left his family and fled.
‘A Devastating Illness’
Erickson is a compulsive gambler, a condition just as dangerous and debilitating as drug or alcohol addiction. I got to get myself out of it.
After 23 days on the run, Erickson turned himself in. 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