By Daniel Bukszpan
March 24, 2016

March Madness is in full swing. Offices across the country are hosting betting pools, whether management realizes it or not, and even those at the highest executive levels are hip deep in “bracketology.” Even President Obama has been known to dabble, as his publicly-posted 2012 bracket attests.

The American Gaming Association predicted earlier this month that $9.2 billion in March Madness bets would be made this year, a $200 million increase from 2015.

Gambling sometimes can be good for business. According to the Center for Gaming Research, annual commercial casino gaming revenues have risen steadily since 2009, with $38 billion in revenue reported for 2014 alone. Figures such as these have not escaped the notice of lawmakers looking to fill their states’ coffers. Minnesota’s Tim Sanders said on Tuesday that the state should declare that fantasy sports games do not qualify as gambling, thereby making them legal. His position contrasts with that of lawmakers from New York, Illinois and Texas, where fantasy sports games are illegal.

The perception of legal gambling as an economic boon is due in large part to the current popularity of online gambling. According to the research group Technavio, worldwide online gambling is expected to grow at a rate of approximately 11 percent every year between now and 2019.

Technology has made gambling available wherever the gambler happens to be, and turns the gambler’s phone into a private virtual casino. The downside to this increased accessibility is that gambling now poses more of a threat to those prone to addiction than ever before.

“There’s this mistaken conception out there that gambling addiction isn’t as serious as other addictions,”said Anna David, Editor-in-Chief of AfterParty Magazine and, and herself a recovering cocaine addict. “It’s like, ‘Just stay away from Vegas and you’ll be cool, right?’ The [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] only changed gambling addiction from a ‘compulsive disorder’ to an ‘addictive disorder’ three years ago.”

One estimate holds that three to five percent of those who gamble become addicts. Fortune presents a list of those who have come forward to admit that they have a problem. Some have shied away from calling it a full-fledged addiction, but whatever they want to call it, in some cases, the urge to gamble cost them millions.


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