PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — While many people are excited that sports betting is now legal in Arizona, others say there is a dark side to expanding gambling in our state.
“When I first started, it was fun,” recovering gambler Steve Feinberg said. He got hooked at just 15. “I was an active compulsive gambler for the better part of 20 years,” he said. He got started playing cards with a next-door neighbor, but things escalated. Quickly. “It seems innocent at the start, but pretty soon, it seems hopeless,” Feinberg said.
While Feinberg doesn’t know exactly how much money he lost, he says it was well into the six figures. But the massive debt wasn’t his only problem. “What I didn’t really consider was that I lost … I lost myself, all those values that I learned as a kid,” he explained. “They kind of went by the wayside. All I cared about was finding a way to make that next bet.” He’d bet on any sport or game, alienating family, friends, and coworkers in the process. “I was scared,” he said. “I really was. I felt so isolated. I felt so alone. I felt as though my life was out of control.”
Feinberg knows many people can gamble responsibly, but if you have a problem, he wants you to know you’re not alone. “There are people out there that understand what you’re going through. It’s not an uncommon thing at all,” Feinberg said.
Seeing sports gambling ads plastered everywhere on social media can be a trigger for some who might be addicted, but help is out there. “We’ve had programs in place for a long time for gamblers,” Elise Mikkelsen, director of Arizona’s Division of Problem Gambling, said. Mikkelsen wants people to know about the resources available, including subsidized counseling for problem gamblers. “Most of the people who find their way to treatment are experiencing great financial difficulties, so we want to make sure everyone knows they can still receive our services.”
There’s also a 24-hour helpline, plus another option many people might not know about. “A person can ban themselves from participating in sports wagering,” Mikkelsen explained. “They sign up on our list for one or five or 10 years. So, that prohibits them from participating.”
🗎/► In-person sports betting available in Arizona, but not at casinos yet
Feinberg found help decades ago with Gamblers Anonymous. Years later, he ended up hitting the jackpot, just not the way he expected. “I’m living an amazing life,” he said. “I’m 69 years old. I’ve had a great career, a great family. I have everything I could possibly want, and when I was gambling, I kept dreaming about these things that I wanted, and I got none of them.”
Copyright 2021 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.