Jason Beem's Thursday Column for March 30, 2023

Profile Picture: Jason Beem

March 30th, 2023

A good Thursday morning to you all! Another huge weekend looms (and another one after that, and another one after that!) 'Tis the season for big days as we lead up to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

As I said, I do want to get back to some of our weekly discussions on betting that we’ve been doing in a couple of weeks, but since it’s still March, I want to talk about another side of the betting discussion.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and I think it’s an important topic to discuss that doesn’t really get talked about enough in racing. "Problem gambling" can describe a wide number of issues that result from gambling. I think a lot of people think problem gambling means they’ve lost every dime they have or they’ve gone into debt for gambling. And certainly it can get that bad for many folks. But for some people, it could just be that they’re spending too much time, energy, and resources on gambling. For others, it can be a disastrous path toward financial and emotional ruin, or even crime or suicide.

I often hear people proclaim that gambling is only a problem when you lose. While I understand the sentiment, and certainly you’re more likely to get in trouble when you’re losing a lot, there are people who win or don’t lose a lot of money who still have problems with gambling. There are people who do just fine betting, but the emotional swings and time consumption can cause problems with relationships, emotions, and be destructive in its own way. Sure, you might be up, but are you really "winning"?

For compulsive gamblers, losing is almost inevitable. Because if you’re betting compulsively, you’re chasing and firing in such a way that you aren’t making good bets. And when you’re making bad bets and doing them all the time, you have no shot to win.

My job is to promote gambling. So it might seem odd that I’m writing a column about this. However, I’ve certainly had times when my gambling was an issue and I was betting beyond my means. Heck, I wrote a book about it.

But I really do think it’s incumbent on people in and around the gambling industry to make it known that there is help available. In fact, TwinSpires has a page dedicated to wagering responsibility and some links for information to help, which you can find HERE.

I know sometimes we see that list of questions and are like, “Well, of course I’ve gambled until my last dollar was gone, who hasn’t?” and have a laugh. Answering "Yes" to some of those questions doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a compulsive or problem gambler.

I think most folks who really do have a gambling problem will know they do if they’re honest with themselves. Most states that have expanded gambling will also have expanded help programs for problem gambling. So if you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, there is help available, and it’s often free of charge.