I recently had a mediocre showing during the Crossfit Open (more on that in an upcoming post), a tournament open to Crossfitters across the globe. In the Open, participants complete standard competition workouts, submitting their scores online and seeing how they stack up on the “Leaderboard.” How does this apply to athletes and gambling? I’m getting there. If you’ve ever met a Crossfitter, you know we can’t go long without mentioning it. So humor me here. Anyway, sharing my less than impressive results with my sister, she went into full-on cheerleader mode, saying how awesome I did, how she brags about me still, and so on. I told her that she’s a great cheerleader, and she said “you know I’ve always been in your corner.” And that’s true. She used to braid my hair before every match (she was super fast and good at it, having learned out of necessity while in the U.S. Marine Corps), scream loudly and with much vulgarity from the crowd (also picked up in the Marines), and took care of me after rough matches or sparring sessions.
It leads to the question, who’s in the corner of the gamblers? When people start gambling, hoping for some recreation, for a quick getaway from personal stressors, to replace the excitement and sense of importance they experienced when training and competing in sports, who’s helping them to prepare? Coaches and training team members make sure athletes have the skills necessary to participate well in their sport. They teach the fundamentals. I remember one of my coaches making me throw nothing but a jab for hours on end, until I couldn’t life my arm any longer. But my jab was ON FIRE my next match! But, where is the training course for someone who is deciding to bring gambling into their life? With the stakes being so high, it’s a recipe for disaster to go into an activity like gambling without learning about responsible gambling strategies. Responsible gambling isn’t something that everyone is equipped to achieve. Some people just aren’t designed to participate minimally or safely. But if you don’t even know how? I don’t like those odds.
Next question: where are the safeguards for gamblers? Think about the gear that is provided to athletes to keep them as safe as possible from injury. In boxing, we wear bigger gloves in training than we do in matches, to protect our hands (and each other’s heads!), Vaseline on our skin to prevent our skin from tearing when hit, groin and kidney protection, mouthpiece, hand wraps…So what gear does a gambler get handed? In some cases, there is literally nothing. But there are some safeguards out there most people don’t know about. From online sportsbooks that offer pre-determined betting limits, time-out options, or other safety features, through self-exclusion and programs that block betting sites on electronic devices, there are some protections available. If a vendor of a gambling product has none of these, maybe beware, and go elsewhere. This would be like taking an unsanctioned fight, a backyard brawl, with no rules, no weight classes, no referee, no pre-fight physicals or post-fight exams. And anyone who puts together such an event has to be questioned as to why they think it’s okay to make money off of fighters with no concern for their short or long-term well-being.
If you choose to gamble, consider learning responsible gambling strategies before you start, looking into safeguards that might be available, and steering clear of any venues or products that have none. At Nicasa, we have a free workshop for Illinois residents over the age of 21 called Safer Sports Betting. This workshop doesn’t tell people HOW to sports bet. It won’t tell people TO sports bet. And it won’t tell people NOT to sports bet. It WILL advise of the risks involved, share safer sports betting (responsible gambling) strategies, discuss the kinds of safeguards available from some vendors of sports wagering products, and will first and foremost stress “Don’t let sports betting get in the way of the game.” If you are interested in attending, complete the form at this link: https://forms.gle/ghevZwmkwAGWr4RF6 Just want to learn more? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Messages come straight to my Inbox.
Lastly, who’s there to help a gambler if their original plan didn’t work out so well? If they end up getting hurt by gambling? In a boxer’s corner, there’s always someone there with an endswell, to reduce swelling in an eye that is swelling shut. There’s a cut man to quickly stop the bleeding if you get cut. There is always someone to help a fighter out of the ring after a match, win or lose. Your legs get really wobbly and more than one fighter has taken a tumble just getting out of the ring, forget what happened in the ring. And there’s a fight doctor on hand in case someone appears concussed or worse; to make that call on whether or not the match should be stopped for the safety of the fighter. Again, there is a great deal of variability in help being advertised, when you look at the different forms, and forums for gambling. Some casinos actually have trained counselors on hand to talk to players who might be in distress. Helpline information can be displayed prominently in some gambling establishments, and some employees might be trained to know the signs a player might be struggling, and how to intervene. (If you do choose to gamble, and you see no information about where to turn for help, you might reconsider that establishment or product. Just saying.) Help IS available in many states, but players don’t always know about it. In Illinois, there is a 24/7 hotline available by phone (1-800-GAMBLER) text (text ilgamb to 53342) or live chat (https://weknowthefeeling.org/). Don’t know where to turn for help in your state? Contact the National Hotline: Call 1-800-522-4700