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Some experts concerned about gambling addiction before sports betting comes to Maine

Scott Gagnon, the associate executive director of AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, said gambling can affect the same parts of the brain as drugs and alcohol.

MAINE, USA — Some experts in Maine are pointing out concerns before sports betting takes off in our state, likely within the next few months. They say while the financial impact will be overwhelmingly positive, there's some concern regarding gambling addiction.

Scott Gagnon is the associate executive director of AdCare Educational Institute of Maine, which helps to coordinate the Maine Gambling Addiction Treatment Network, providing reimbursement to people seeking gambling treatment. He says he's concerned they may not have adequate staffing to meet a rising demand for help.

"One challenge that we have here in Maine is there’s a certain part of our behavioral workforce that’s not allowed to participate in that network," Gagnon said, since professionals who only have the Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor credential are not eligible. To participate, they must be Licensed Clinical Social Workers or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselors.

"A lot of states have lotteries that fund gambling resources and services. We don’t have that situation here in the state," Gagnon also added, noting per Maine law, just one percent of all gross sports wagering revenue will go to the Gambling Addiction and Prevention Treatment Fund.

Gagnon said gambling affects the same parts of the brain that substances do, and research indicates at least three percent of the population is prone to addiction. He also said young men and young adults are particularly at risk, especially with the many modes in which people will be able to participate.

"I think it’s going to be even that much more ubiquitous compared to other forms of gambling, especially because of the fact that you’re going to be able to do it online," Gagnon said.

Former state senator Bill Diamond said while he thinks the financial impact of sports betting in Maine will be a net positive, he's concerned about some of our state's most vulnerable people.

"We have a problem with addiction and drugs... Who suffers the most? The children," Diamond said, noting he founded nonprofit Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, dedicated to preventing child abuse and deaths in Maine. 

Diamond said for some people, addiction in any form is something that's completely out of their control. It's why he said he thinks the state needs to focus more on prevention efforts.

"We need to take some responsibility and realize we just added another layer — another layer that’s going to be dangerous to some," Diamond said.

Gagnon said there are some signs of gambling addiction people can watch out for, like no longer finding it fun, dipping into other parts of the household budget to continue the habit, disrupting their daily life, and missing work. 

If you're in need of help for gambling addiction, you can call 211 Maine to be connected to resources near you. 

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