47 signs of sports betting addiction

Sports betting is on the rise. In the UK, sports betting is an integrated part of sports where betting companies sponsor several Premier League teams. As of 1st January 2023, 30 US states have legalized sports betting, which is likely to increase during the year.

During Super Bowl 2023, over 50 million Americans bet a staggering $15B on one game. With increased exposure to sports gambling, we see increased sports betting addiction. Around 20 million Americans show signs of gambling problems. With the further legalization of online sports gambling, that number will likely double within five years (Prediction by QuitGamble.com).

47 signs and symptoms of sports gambling addiction

Are you a sports betting addict? This article will show the warning signs and symptoms of sports betting addiction. Some characters you’ve probably seen before, but we’ll present some unexpected red flag signs too. This list is based on interviews with sports betting addicts, addiction studies, and the development of QuitGamble.com over the past four years.

We’ve structured the warnings, signs, and symptoms of betting addiction in the following categories:

You can skip ahead or read the complete list. If you recognize any signs of sports bet addiction in yourself or someone close to you. Please consider seeking support. We are here to help you overcome sports betting addiction through the following:

  1. Help you understand what sports betting is doing for you.
  2. Help you work on these areas of your life.
  3. Offer support along the way. You’re not alone anymore.

Let’s look at the signs! 

The most crucial signs of sports betting addiction

We believe it’s so hard to stop betting because gambling is doing something for you. The key to successful recovery is to understand what that is and work with those things. The following signs might give you more information about your betting habits.

1. Winning is fun, but you continue betting anyway

It feels great to win because it enables you to continue betting. Even if you win, you continue betting until no money is left on the account. When you don’t stop betting when you win, perhaps sports betting isn’t about money. Perhaps sports betting is about something else. Think about what happens in the moment you’re betting. How does it feel, and what do you think about it?

2. Feeling desperate – Don’t understand why you continue betting

The person has lost control over their betting. Sports betting controls their lives, and they feel hopeless because they don’t know why they keep betting.

Please consider this: Sports betting is doing something for you. Perhaps it’s a distraction/escape from your thoughts, feelings, or current life events. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not betting because you’re stupid. You continue betting because betting is doing something for you. The key is to figure out what that something is.

3. Using sports betting to escape or distraction (without knowing)

Has sports betting become an automatic habit, something you do without really thinking about why you do it? Does it often happen when you don’t feel comfortable? Perhaps you start thinking about betting when you find the house empty after work, have fought with someone, or feel stressed, lonely, or anxious.

Do you know what your gambling triggers are? Think about it for a few days, write it down, and see if you might use gambling to escape or distract yourself without realizing it.

4. Released, you use sports betting as an escape but don’t know why

Identifying whether betting on sports serves as an escape for you is an essential step in recognizing potential sports gambling addiction. But this realization can also be a positive sign that you are becoming more self-aware and taking the first step toward recovery. Even if you’re unsure of what draws you to betting, recognizing that it serves some purpose is an essential starting point in overcoming addiction.

5. Sports betting has begun causing pain and worry by itself

The negative consequences of sports betting now outweigh the positive aspects. For example, accumulating debt can trigger anxiety about the future, while concealing or deceiving others about sports betting can result in remorse, fear, and disrupted sleep.

When sports betting becomes both a source of distress and a coping mechanism to escape from it, the behavior can rapidly spiral into a destructive pattern. One negative experience can trigger another, setting off a dangerous cycle.

6. More and higher bets to keep the same excitement level

The individual may require greater amounts of dopamine, heightened excitement, and increased stakes in sports betting to achieve the same level of satisfaction.

This phenomenon can also be explained by the desensitization of dopamine receptors in the brain caused by excessive sports betting. As a result, the brain may require higher dopamine levels to produce the same effect as before. Keep an eye on these warning signs of sports betting addiction.

7. Feeling the urge to bet as soon as you feel lonely or bored

In our registration form, we inquire about users’ gambling habits. Out of 800 responses, boredom and loneliness emerged as the two most prevalent triggers for sports betting. When reflecting on your recent sports betting experiences, consider the circumstances that prompted you to engage in this behavior. Were you feeling bored or isolated? If so, it’s possible that you turned to sports betting subconsciously to escape those emotions.

8. Describing the moment of betting as a moment of peace

What happens when you bet? What do you think? What do you feel? And perhaps most interestingly, what do you not feel or think? Our members often describe the moment they gamble as a moment of peace. For a moment, they don’t think of anything else.

When people experience a sense of calmness or inner peace through sports betting, it could be an early warning sign of sports betting addiction. Although the addiction may not be fully manifest, the behavior could become compulsive.

9. Being depressed and betting on sports

Another red flag for sports betting addiction is if you engage in it when feeling depressed, thinking about depression, or experiencing a low mood. Scientific studies have shown a correlation between depression and sports betting addiction.

If an individual is depressed, sports betting can have a more profound psychological impact, making them more susceptible to addiction. It’s uncertain whether depression leads to sports betting addiction or if sports betting addiction triggers depression. We believe that both scenarios are possible.

10. Often combine sports betting with drinking alcohol

Both alcohol consumption and sports betting stimulate dopamine release in the brain. As mentioned, an indication of sports betting addiction is when an individual place increasingly higher bets.

Alcohol can have a similar effect, as the brain may crave more dopamine than what sports betting alone can provide. Consequently, individuals may turn to alcohol to augment the impact of sports betting. The need for betting and drinking is another warning sign of sports gambling addiction.

Money-related signs of sports gambling addiction

In articles about sports gambling, there is a strong focus on money. Don’t bet with more money than you can afford. Never borrow money to finance your betting, etc. The betting companies call it responsible betting if you only bet with money you can afford. It’s convenient for them because that puts the responsibility on the gambler. It also allows rich people to bet as much as they want without risking the harmful effects of sports betting. It’s not true, though. Rich people can also get sports bet problems. Here are a few more signs of sportsbetting addiction or problems.

11. Betting and losing more money than you can afford

Are you aware of how much your sports bets are costing you? For instance, if you’re wagering more money than you would typically spend on entertainment, you must exercise extra caution. Overspending on sports gambling beyond your financial means indicates a sports betting problem.

12. Borrow money to finance your betting

Borrowing money for sports betting can include borrowing money to cover bills, loans, or even necessities like food as a direct result of losing money through betting.

If you’ve taken a sports betting addiction test (except for the Happiness test), you’ve likely been asked about borrowing money for sports betting. This question is important because answering yes can indicate that sports betting has harmed an individual’s financial situation. It’s also part of the criteria for gambling disorder DSM 5.

13. The losses cause problems paying rent or bills

While you may not have resorted to borrowing funds to fuel your sports betting, have you ever found yourself struggling to pay your rent or put food on the table after engaging in this activity?

14. You receive payment reminders

Maybe you’ve been skipping payments to balance your finances for the month. While this might seem like a solution at the time, it can indicate compulsive sports betting behavior. It is also one of the warning signs that we highlight for individuals close to sports betting addicts. Looking for payment reminders in the mail is vital to identify problematic betting behavior.

15. Steal money or commit a crime to get money to bet with

Sports gambling addiction can drive individuals to perform unimaginable acts, including resorting to criminal behavior to acquire funds for gambling. Some examples of such behavior include:

  • Writing cheques with insufficient funds.
  • “Borrowing” money without any intention of repaying it.
  • Taking money from someone else’s bank account.
  • Stealing items to sell for money.
  • Engaging in fraudulent activities.

Attempting to use someone else’s money to support one’s gambling habit is a warning sign of sports betting addiction. This addictive behavior can rapidly escalate into manic and pathological gambling, resulting in criminal actions with long-lasting implications. If you’ve engaged in any of these actions, seeking help is essential.

16. Continue betting to recoup debts

When we ask our members why they engage in sports betting, the most common answer is to recoup their losses. They want to win back what they’ve lost or resolve their financial difficulties with a big win.

The possibility of winning back lost money in sports betting makes addiction to betting challenging. Unlike alcoholism, where the solution is to stop drinking, the slim chance of resolving financial problems through a significant win is often enough to encourage compulsive sports bettors to continue.

In our experience working with many sports betting addicts, we’ve found that, for many, the motivation to bet is no longer primarily about the money. The compulsion to bet persists regardless of whether they win or lose. Therefore, relying on a significant win to cover sports betting losses is usually unrealistic. If you find yourself sports betting to recoup losses or pay off debts, it’s a sign of problematic sports betting behavior that requires attention.

17. Chasing old sports betting losses

Attempting to recoup losses is perhaps the most prevalent sign of betting addiction. The desire to recover what has been lost only leads to deeper issues.

This pattern is not exclusive to sports betting. In the business world, it’s referred to as sunk costs, funds a company has already invested in a project. The more resources invested, the more likely the company is to continue investing, even if the project is doomed to fail. It’s another, similarly ineffective, approach to chasing losses.

Have you ever returned to the sportsbook the next day to try and win back your losses? If so, it may indicate problematic betting behavior that needs to be addressed.

Feelings as a sign of sports betting problems

Below is a list of thoughts and feelings closely related to problem betting. Suppose you experience any of these concerning gambling. It’s a warning sign that you may be betting too much on sports, and things aren’t as they should be. Look closely and see if you can relate to any of them.

18. Regret your sports bets afterward

Sensing remorse, self-loathing, exasperation, and rage following a sports bet may be a warning signal. “How could I have been so foolish? Why did I…?” It could be pronounced if you try to quit betting and then relapse. Regretting your betting hints, you’ve probably wagered too much and lost control.

19. Feeling uneasy when you’re not placing bets

Betting addicts often feel agitated when they’re not placing bets. They crave the excitement of sports betting and may have trouble remembering what they enjoy doing outside of betting. Being addicted to sports betting can overshadow all other aspects of their lives.

20. Mood changes quickly

Betting on sports can have a significant impact on mood. It’s not uncommon for bettors to experience mood swings due to their wins and losses. The emotions felt during betting often carry over into daily life, creating frustration, anger, or anxiety. The constant release of dopamine during betting can also lead to an imbalance in the brain, making it harder to experience pleasure from non-betting activities.

21 Sleeping badly

Sleep problems are a common symptom of compulsive betting. The stress and anxiety caused by the addiction trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that makes it hard to fall asleep. The brain is always hyperarousal, thinking about gambling, how to get more money, and worrying about the future.

22 Remember a big win and chase that feeling

The first win can leave a lasting impression on a person’s psyche, especially those with a sports betting addiction. They become fixated on trying to recreate that euphoric feeling, leading to a cycle of chasing losses and risking more money.

What happens when you try to stop sports betting?

The clearest sign of sports betting addiction is if you try to stop and fail. Here are a few symptoms of sports gambling addiction related to trying to stop. Can you relate to any of them?  

23 You tried to stop betting but failed

Have you ever attempted to give up gambling? What happened? Sometimes, we must experience the lack of something to appreciate its worth. It is also true when it comes to quitting betting. When we try to overcome betting addiction, we understand ”its purpose” in our lives. If you’ve wanted to quit sports betting and were unsuccessful, it may be because it provided you with something you were unaware of.

Failing to stop betting is a common sign of sportsbetting addiction.

24 Getting withdrawal symptoms

What happened when you tried to stop gambling? Did you experience any signs and symptoms of gambling withdrawal? According to a study published in 2015, 30-40% of high-frequency gamblers showed significant disturbance in restlessness, depressed mood, poor concentration and anxiety, and poor sleep.

Signs of sports betting addiction attitudes

Let’s take a look at your beliefs and attitude about betting. Check out the following warning signs of thoughts that can hurt you about your gambling habits.

25 Believe you bet to win – Change your life

The lure of sports wagering often begins as a source of entertainment, with the thrill of the win and thoughts of what to do with the money being exhilarating. However, chasing that feeling while continuing to bet over time can be dangerous. Most types of sports betting won’t make bettors wealthy, only the sportsbooks.

Our article on the addiction curve warns that those who bet on sports in hopes of winning money are on thin ice. Believing that betting can transform one’s life is a dangerous notion. It’s a dream shared by many of our members: the hope of winning big and changing their lives. Ultimately, they recognized the need to stop sports betting.

26 Believe you’re different – You can’t have sports betting problems

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that sports betting issues can’t happen to you just because you feel different from others. While we are all unique individuals, we share many similarities.

It’s important to recognize that anyone can develop an addiction to sports betting, and we should avoid comparing ourselves to others. Being humble and open to the possibility that bad things can happen to us is crucial.

27. Think you can stop sports betting at any time

Mark Twain once famously quipped, “It’s easy to stop smoking. I’ve done it a hundred times.” However, thinking that quitting smoking (or any addiction, for that matter) is as easy as flicking a switch can be a dangerous mindset. Instead of assuming it’ll be easy to quit, put that belief to the test. If you can quit with little effort, that’s great! But if you struggle, don’t be too hard on yourself – acknowledge the challenge and seek help.

28. Don’t believe sports betting can be a problem

Sports bettors often find it hard to recognize and acknowledge they have a problem. They may deceive not only others but also themselves about their betting activities. It’s okay if you’re unsure if you have a problem with sports betting. Take your time to explore and understand your relationship with sports betting.

29. Believe you can just place one bet or two

It’s dangerous to think we can engage in sports betting “just a bit” and not have it become a problem. If you have that belief, challenge it and work to eliminate it. It’s better to address the issue sooner rather than later. It’s often said that an alcoholic can’t have just one drink; the same can be said for a sports bettor. Believing otherwise shows a lack of understanding and acceptance of the full extent of the problem.

Signs of sports gambling addiction in relationship to others

Sooner or later, the addiction will impact people around the addict. Here are some signs that it’s already happening.

30. Lying and covering up your sports betting

Have you ever concealed your sports betting habits from loved ones or felt ashamed of your behavior? People struggling with addiction often hide or deny their actions, especially those with a gambling problem. Sometimes, problem bettors may deceive themselves to keep up their destructive habits.

Despite the harm it causes, the addiction can be so overwhelming that individuals will say or do anything to keep it going. This can include lying about the amount of time and money spent on sports betting and the reasons for engaging in this activity.

31. Creative in inventing excuses to sportsbet

Have you ever made up an excuse to avoid doing something to place a sports bet or engage in other forms of betting instead? It’s common for those struggling with sports betting addiction to prioritize their gambling over other responsibilities and activities.

It often involves making excuses to justify the behavior, whether skipping work, canceling plans with friends or family, or neglecting household duties. Frequently making excuses to gamble instead of fulfilling your obligations may signify a sports betting addiction.

32. Isolate yourself from friends and family

Those who bet on sports often retreat from other people and activities they used to enjoy. In the grip of addiction, nothing seems as important as the rush of a big win. But this tunnel vision comes at a great cost: the gambler’s loved ones are left to pick up the pieces, wondering why they have been shut out.

33. Struggle to be on time

Those who bet on sports may struggle to keep up with work or arrive on time when their betting takes too much time. Late-night sports betting can also lead to a decrease in productivity at work.

34. Get defensive if anybody talks about “your problem.”

Are you honest with others when they inquire about your betting habits, or do you feel the need to get defensive? Refusing to acknowledge or becoming hostile could signify that you’re struggling with a betting addiction.

35. Sports betting harms your relationships

When a person’s betting on sports starts to hurt their relationships, it could indicate a problem. Even if the person keeps their betting activities secret, their loved ones may sense that something is off due to their secrecy and distance. Relationships require time, effort, and open communication, which can be challenging when someone is consumed with betting on sports.

Typical characteristics of a betting addict

Below, you will find a list of characteristics of a sportsbetting addict. Can you see yourself or somebody close to you in any of them?

36. Thinking of your next bet all the time

When thoughts of sports betting start to dominate your thinking, even when you’re not actively engaged in betting, it’s time to take a closer look at your habits. If you find yourself constantly planning your next bets or strategizing your approach, it may be a sign that you’re developing an unhealthy relationship with sports betting. Recognizing this warning sign early can help you take action to prevent further harm to yourself and your relationships.

37. Spend more time on sports betting

It’s crucial to be mindful of your time on sports betting. Are you gambling more frequently than you used to? Are you spending extended periods betting? These are vital questions to ask yourself, as excessive time spent on sports betting can be a warning sign for developing a sports betting addiction.

Daily gambling is a significant problem in Sweden, with approximately 5% of the population engaging in this activity. According to research, 3-4% of the Swedish population may struggle with casino addiction, and daily gambling is a key factor in this problem. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the risk associated with the amount of time spent gambling and take action to address any problematic behavior.

38. Betting on so many games/sports you can’t keep track

If you can’t recall the bets you placed or the gambling sessions you attended last week, it’s a potential red flag that your gambling is no longer just for entertainment. Such memory lapses are often signs of a gambling addiction spiraling out of control.

39. Betting on any opportunity available

A study in Michigan found that compulsive gamblers tend to engage in gambling activities across six or more different types of things, distinguishing them from recreational gamblers. Are you constantly looking for gambling opportunities or find it challenging to resist gambling on everything? Engaging in gambling activities across multiple things is a sign of gambling disorder and is a critical factor to monitor when dealing with compulsive gambling.

40. Keep betting even if it isn’t fun anymore

Compulsive gamblers often no longer find gambling to be enjoyable. Instead, it becomes a compulsion, and they may turn to it as an escape. While some may believe they gamble for fun and excitement, closer reflection often reveals a sense of numbness. For those with slot or casino addictions, the desire to win back what has been lost can become all-consuming.

41. Do you prioritize the same things anymore?

Activities that used to be enjoyable may have lost their allure. Consider what you enjoyed doing five years ago and how you spent your time. Did you spend time with friends, play golf, take strolls in the park, cook fancy meals, engage with your children, or work out at the gym? Have any of these activities taken a backseat to gamble?

42. Taking extreme betting risks to win

Do you take extreme risks in betting? Reckless and high-risk behavior is like being in “tilt” mode in poker. It means you’re doing something you know is wrong, but you can’t help it. Engaging in careless sports betting could be a warning sign that you’re losing control of your gambling and could develop into a sports gambling addiction.

43. Having bad self-confidence

Individuals with low self-esteem and self-confidence are at a higher risk of developing a gambling addiction. The dopamine rush that comes from gambling can provide a temporary boost to their self-perception. Consequently, those who struggle with self-worth and confidence may be more susceptible to developing problematic sports bet behaviors. Do you feel confident in yourself and your abilities?

44. Getting more impulsive

Has your decision-making become more impulsive, particularly when it comes to gambling? Impulsivity is a common characteristic of sports betting addiction and can lead to negative consequences in both your personal and financial life.

45. Can you answer: What do you enjoy doing?

When someone becomes consumed by sports betting, it can be difficult to enjoy anything else. To determine if this is the case for you, take a moment to ask yourself what you enjoy doing outside of gambling. If you struggle to come up with 5-10 things, it may signify that gambling has taken over as a priority in your life.

46. It’s payday – First thought is how to use the money for betting

Payday may be particularly risky for someone struggling with a gambling addiction. Do you plan how to gamble before your salary arrives or eagerly anticipate its arrival just to use it for betting? If you’re preoccupied with thoughts of gambling and eagerly anticipate your paycheck to use it for betting, it’s essential to recognize these patterns and seek support.

47. Having accounts at multiple sportsbooks

A recent Swedish survey found that those with problem bettors tend to have multiple online sportsbook accounts. While the survey didn’t delve into the reasons behind this behavior, it’s common in the gambling industry for players to have multiple accounts to take advantage of bonuses, odds, and sports betting opportunities.

Summary:

According to DSM­5 Diagnostic Criteria: Gambling Disorder, there are nine criteria for gambling disorder. In this article, we’ve presented 47 signs of sports betting addiction. How many of them can you relate to?

The list aims to support gamblers if you try to help a gambler. Use the list to understand your or others’ behavior better. Remember, we believe gambling is doing something for the person. That’s why it’s so difficult to stop gambling.  

If you need help, don’t hesitate to join our community. We have +2500 members determined to overcome betting or gambling addiction. You’re not alone! 

Good Luck!

Founder of QuitGamble Anders Bergman
Anders Bergman
Anders Bergman MSc, MA
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As the responsible publisher, Anders advocates for easily understandable content through both texts and videos…more about Anders