With legalization of sports betting in Indiana, expert fears gambling addiction increase

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SHELBYVILLE, Ind. – At 1 p.m. Sunday, sports fans, if they are so inclined, can place their first legal bets at an Indiana casino on the Indianapolis Colts’ chances of making the Super Bowl.

“This will be the first sports book up in the state of Indiana,” said Ron Baumann, General Manager of Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville, as he watched construction crews put the final touches on the sports betting parlor in the Winner’s Circle Race, Sports, Pub. “To be sitting here in a position to open up on the 1st ahead of the NFL season is a tribute to the Indiana Gaming Commission and the speed at which they operate.”

In April, state lawmakers approved legislation to launch sports betting in Indiana.

Five casinos have been given the go ahead to begin operating sports books in the early days of September with more approvals expected next week.

Casinos in Hammond, East Chicago, Lawrenceburg and French Lick have also been given the thumbs up to open their sports betting lounges.

While online betting has been approved, the IGC has yet to write those rules.

“We will introduce ourselves to a customer, a guest who is currently not coming here, who enjoys wagering on sports, so that’s our primary goal to attract that customer,” said Baumann, standing in front of a bank of 20 large video monitors on a floor with dozens of plush leather recliners emblazoned with the Indiana Grand logo. “I think Indianapolis is a sports town. I think it gets a little underrated given our proximity to Chicago, but, this is a great, great sports town and the passion for the Colts, the passion for the Pacers, the passion for the local college teams, mainly on the basketball side of it, the appetite is insatiable I just can’t imagine any of these places not being crazy busy from the moment they open their doors.”

Sports betting may be great for winners, said Christina Gray of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling, but it can be devastating to the gamblers who lose and their families.

“You have the same chemical reaction in your brain as you do with a substance addiction so it’s still firing off all that excitement and it’s an escape just like any other addiction,” said Gray on the eve of the sports betting launch. “I think it opens the door to probably a wider base because people who didn’t gamble sports betting-wise because it wasn’t legal, now it opens the door, its legal now.”

Gray expects after an initial rush of new bettors, gambling problems will surface for some people.

“You know when they open for the first time, everybody wants to see what it’s like, they want to see the new place, that kind of thing, you know, test it out a little bit,” she said. “It just does not affect the problem gambler. It affects the family as well.”

Gray said the opening of the Indiana sports book comes not only at the start of the NFL schedule but also the college football season when many students are leaving home and going to campus and likely to get caught up in what could turn out to be an addictive gambling lifestyle.

“The parents aren’t aware of what their kids are doing all the time when they’re in college and it could be that I will get more calls based on this sports betting because a lot of young people, usually 18-34- year-old males, are big into sports gambling,” she said. “In fact, I had a call from a parent who said, ‘I bailed them out once. Do I do it again?’ It’s a hard decision for the family because usually it is the family that will bail out the problem gambler.

“I’ve gotten the phone calls and they’re heartbreaking.”

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, information is available here. in.gov/igc/problemgamblinghelp/ or call 1-800-9-WITHIT.

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