SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - With March Madness right around the corner also comes the estimated $10 billion in bets expected to be placed on all those basketball games.
It is also the time when calls spike to the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline. That’s a big reason why March is named “Problem Gambling Awareness Month.”
Ask a gambling addict when they finally turned for help and they often point the moment they hit rock bottom.
For Ronda Rivers, it came after gambling away her daughter's college tuition.
"I knew then that I was about to get caught because my family had no idea what I was doing."
Rivers case is all too common. just ask Janet Miller who told us, “This is what we call a hidden or an invisible addiction.”
Miller said that’s why gambling addiction specialists have now coined the phrase, “Have the conversation.”
"So when people do gamble just ask them, 'have you ever thought you might have a problem or have you ever kept things secret or hidden from other family or friends."
Miller is the executive director of the Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling.
Its Center of Recovery, or CORE, headquarters in Shreveport served as the kickoff point locally for March being designated as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
Miller told us why this year’s slogan “Awareness + Action” has one strong message for addicts.
“To know that they have treatment, they have helpline services, they have counseling here at no cost to them or their families.”
We might often hear someone going to a place like CORE for answers and that’s the end of the story. In reality, it’s just the beginning. With days, weeks, months, even years ahead of work.
CORE is exactly where Ronda Rivers turned for help 7 years ago.
"And I spent 36 days here. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas here. Best Thanksgiving and Christmas of my life."
Casino representatives also attended CORE’s kickoff ceremony, explaining they too are helping in the fight against gambling addiction.
That included Shelli Briery with Horseshoe Casino: "We pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to make sure that we are doing our part."
Briery told us that includes training employees on how to spot a potential problem gambler so they can get them the help they need.
To get help for yourself or a loved one you can call the Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline.
That number is 1-877-770-STOP. The call is free and confidential.