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Gambling addiction: The dark side of March Madness

Wednesday - 3/20/2013, 4:08pm  ET

Nick Iannelli, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - From workplace pools to classroom wagers, it seems everyone has something riding on March Madness.

The NCAA basketball tournament is an exciting time for sports fans. But for others, it can be an absolute nightmare.

All the attention paid to sports betting can trigger gambling cravings that spin out of control.

"Problem gambling is much like other addictions," says Christopher Welsh, medical director of the Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"It becomes not just fun and entertainment, but starts to have some sort of negative effect on someone's life."

Gamblers bet more than $12 billion on the tournament, according to the center.

"They're someone who tells themselves 'Stop, I'll never do it again.' Then they do it again and do it again," says the center's deputy director Joanna Franklin.

"Folks that cross the line are just like any other addict."

Franklin says college basketball season physically and financially drains gamblers with severe addictions.

"They are good people, but they are sick people and they need help."

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