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March Madness can cause relapses for betting addicts during Problem Gambling Awareness Month

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and state gaming officials want Arizonans to know that help is available.

A recovering compulsive gambler says it’s an addiction that can show no outward signs because it can all be done in secret with a smartphone and credit card.

Arizona expanded gaming about six months ago by legalizing sports betting, which came with a green light for making mobile wagers.

Dave Appleby, a recovering compulsive gambler who hid his addiction for decades, urges family and friends of someone they think has a betting problem to confront them.

“Just don’t let it keep going because it does not get better. The disease continuously gets worse. And the individuals become more and more desperate,” he said.

Appleby’s theory that he’d see a lot more people at Gamblers Anonymous meetings after football season ended has not come true. He hopes more bettors will seek help after the NCAA college basketball tournament, which is one of the most popular sports gambling events every year.

A top state official has warned that March Madness can trigger a relapse during Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Americans are entranced by dozens of games every day.  

“And for a compulsive gambler, especially like me who was an action gambler, it’s just, you know, it’s like euphoria,” said Appleby.

Arizona’s confidential helpline 1-800 next step is for people struggling with gambling. Plus their family, friends and coworkers.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.