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How Your Fantasy Football League Could Jeopardize Recovery

Football lying on grass

Fantasy sports sites have been around for a while but the industry has grown dramatically within the last four years. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, in 2011 it had 35.9 million players and now it has over 56 million players in the US and Canada. Accessibility and lack of government regulation are the main reasons why fantasy sports sites have boomed over the last few years and consequently made it so easy for people to get hooked. Most people who participate in fantasy sports play for fun without any money involved with no harm done.  Yet, for people in recovery, these sites can be a new platform for betting online which can dangerously turn into relapse.

Who are at Risk?

Fantasy sports sites can be major triggers for relapse for people in recovery from a gambling addiction. One recovering gambling addict described the discovery of fantasy sports sites as “an alcoholic finding out about a whole new street of bars that he never knew about.” He lost $20,000 in fantasy sports sites and as his life continued to fall apart he began to consider suicide.

Exact figures for how many Canadians are gambling online or have a gambling addiction across the country are difficult to find because it’s an industry that’s unregulated. In addition, people are ashamed and scared to admit they have a gambling addiction. What we do know is that young men, particularly college students and people in recovery are the groups at most risk of developing an online fantasy sports site addiction. According to Matt King, FanDuel’s CFO at the time stated that the fantasy sports site market had peaked in 2009 and in order to change things up, they decided to target millennials, people between the ages of 18 to 35. FanDuel’s strategy was to go mobile; making it faster, easier to sign up, and play 24/7.

How serious is this problem?

The FSTA (Fantasy Sports Trade Association) website reveals that 19% of the Canadian population compared to 14% of the population in the US are fantasy sports site players. A study of people seeking help with their gambling problem revealed that the group with online gambling experiences had the most severe problematic and pathological gambling behaviours.

A major characteristic that really draws people to use these sites is the instantaneous element.  A psychiatric professor from McGill University who operates an international centre to treat gambling addicts described why these sites are attractive to people, “Why wait until the end of the season to see who was going to win? Let’s do it every day.”

The potential to lose huge amounts of money and relapse are just a click away. People no longer need to visit a casino to gamble. “According to the Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario, 13-20% of Gamblers Anonymous members have attempted suicide and up to 60% of problem gamblers in inpatient treatment programs have tried or have an idea of how they would commit suicide.” When alcohol or drugs are used in conjunction with gambling, the suicide rate increases. Canadians need to be more educated on what a gambling addiction looks like and what to do when you identify it.

What are the signs of a fantasy sports site addiction?

According to our therapist, Alex St. John, who works in the gambling addiction treatment program at Bellwood, the signs for fantasy sports site addiction are the same as any other gambling addiction.  “It can be difficult for a family member to know if their loved one has a gambling addiction.  Until a crisis happens, a person’s family really hasn’t a clue of what’s been going on.”

Gamblers Anonymous has a 20-Questionnaire to help people identify if they have a gambling problem. If you answer ‘yes’ to 7 or more questions then you may have a gambling addiction:

1.     Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?

2.     Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?

3.     Did gambling affect your reputation?

4.     Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?

5.     Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?

6.     Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?

7.     After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?

8.     After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?

9.     Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?

10.   Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?

11.   Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?

12.   Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?

13.   Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?

14.   Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?

15.   Have you ever gambled to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?

16.   Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?

17.   Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?

18.   Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?

19.   Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?

20.   Have you ever considered self-destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?

Alex revealed, “If you are in recovery and think you might be relapsing, here are a few questions you should ask yourself”:

  • Are you having slips in personal hygiene?
  • Do you find yourself purchasing lottery tickets?
  • Are you isolating yourself from friends, family and your recovery support group?
  • Are you making small wagers and convincing yourself that you aren’t a full blown casino gambler?

What can be done?

If you are concerned about a loved one or yourself, please give us a call. We’ll provide you with support and guidance on how to start putting your life back together again.



TSN: Daily fantasy sports gaming illegal in Canada, trade group says

New York Times Fantasy Sports Site

Toronto Star: Fantasy Sports industry braces for change as legal challenges mount