High lottery jackpots, March Madness could lead to excessive gambling

The time of year for brackets can lead to friendly bets. It can also lead to problem gambling.
The time of year for brackets can lead to friendly bets. It can also lead to problem gambling.

GREEN BAY- From buying lottery tickets to filling out basketball tournament brackets, a lot of people are gambling this week.

But counselors warn what starts out as friendly bets could turn into problem gambling.

"Can’t win if you don't play. Hopefully it'll pay off my house,” said Nancy Mommaerts of Suamico, holding her lottery ticket.

"It's up to 400 million! I could become a millionaire!" said Bernie Kroll of Howard, as he purchased a few tickets at Olsen’s Piggly Wiggly on Lineville Road.

Whether buying their ticket to Mega Millions, or taking their best guess at who will win in college basketball, people across northeast Wisconsin are shelling out a few bucks in hopes of winning big.

“The fun is just picking the teams and seeing how you do. Seeing how you end up at the end the championship,” said Don Yurk of Green Bay, on his way to the college basketball game at the Resch Center Tuesday.

Fans going in to see the Green Bay Phoenix play the Belmont Bruins in the NIT say they try to limit the amount of money they spend on their brackets. However, gambling counselors say this time of year can lead to problem gambling with larger wagers.

“They use it as a way to make money. Maybe they've already had some gambling issues before and it's just kind of what's leading them into more gambling behaviors,” said Kathryn Peterson, a certified gambling counselor.

Peterson says buying the occasional lottery ticket or participating in your office bracket pool is healthy.

But there are warning signs that you might have a problem with betting.

“If people are spending a lot of times on the brackets, not paying a lot of attention at home, or if its impacting work. As well as the money part of it. If people are using money that maybe they should be using on their mortgage or groceries on gambling, it definitely raises a concern,” said Peterson.

Peterson hopes basketball fans and hopeful millionaires alike play it safe, and know when not to lay the money down.

If you or a loved one is having issues with gambling, there is help. Call the Wisconsin Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-GAMBLE-5.