The Big Dance is mostly fun and games but it can lead to problems for some who struggle with problem gambling.
Nineteen years ago, March was designated Problem Gambling Awareness Month, intentionally lined up with March Madness.
Some 900,000 adult Ohioans are at-risk for problem gambling.
For Mark, the game of choice has always been the slots, he explained to 10TV.
“My first time at a casino, on a dollar machine, I had a really big win; like a jackpot win,” Mark said. And it was definitely downhill from there.”
Mark, who has also dealt with alcoholism throughout his life, told 10TV that what started as a game, brought him back to the casinos daily for about five years.
“Win or lose, I lost,” he said. “Because if I won, I wasn’t walking home with it. If I lost, I was trying to figure out, you know, ‘Can I use a credit card to get some more money?’ You know, different things like that. ‘How do I go make some money so I can gamble some more?’
The outcome changed Mark’s life.
“I actually got to a point where I was losing family, friends, everybody around me,” he said. “Every week I was burning out my paycheck, I was doing cash advances on all my credit cards, blowing through the roof just to continue.”
A major sign that someone is experiencing problem gambling is alienation, according to Bruce Jones, the administrative coordinator for Maryhaven’s gambling intervention program.
“Their behaviors have changed, they’re spending more time away from their house or on the television or on the radio, watching too many sporting events that it’s consuming; it’s compulsive,” Jones said.
It’s through Maryhaven’s One More Chance program that Mark was able to find new outlets like painting and sewing.
“I just sat down, started playing with canvas and turned on some music and painted my feelings,” Mark said. “It’s intuitive abstract work and how I feel inside – you’ll see some are happier, some are a little more chaotic.”
Along with the One More Chance program, there are other resources like the Before You Bet quiz, which helps users evaluate their risk for problem gambling.
Anyone can also call the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966.
“I would say that you are not alone. You’re not unique. It’s not a unique situation,” Mark said. If it feels like you’re the only one in the world, you’re not. I’m here with you and many others and Maryhaven’s One More Chance and the gambling hotline.”