Gambling and Playing it Safe

If You’re Betting on The “Big Game,” Play it Safe!

The “Big Game” is a national gambling holiday. In fact, it is the single most wagered sporting event in our country.  And while it’s a great time to have fun with family and friends, for some, this event can be a trigger for gambling problems.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that in 2016, Nevada sports books reported taking in more money in legal wagers on last year’s game than any “Big Game” in history - $132.5 million. And, the American Gaming Association estimated that Americans bet $4.2 billion on the game in illegal wagers. 

Aside from the indulgence on food and drinks, opportunities abound to bet on the game. There are office and home parties, online sports betting sites, and mobile sports betting as close as your smart phone. There are also limitless possibilities for what you can bet on throughout the game - will the coin toss be heads or tails, how long will the National Anthem take to complete, number of points per quarter, and so on. 

“For most people, this annual football celebration is just a game, and they can bet on it safely and responsibly,” says Dr. Lori Rugle, Program Director for the Maryland Center on Problem Gambling (The Center). “Wagering on this game should be viewed as entertainment only.” 

More than 150,000 people in Maryland (3.4% of the population surveyed in 2011) met problem gambling criteria. For those who struggle with gambling problems, the “Big Game” may be seen as a last ditch effort to end a season long losing streak and make up for all past losses.

Here are a few suggested guidelines to follow if you are hosting a gathering to make sure game day is fun for everyone:

  • Don’t pressure anyone to participate in pools or gambling activities.
  • Have information about problem gambling and resources for help available.
  • Use this game day as an opportunity to increase awareness about problem gambling.
  • Be creative – think of ways to enjoy the game without having to gamble.
  • If you do include gambling, suggest low limits for amount of bets. 

Experts from the Maryland Center on Problem Gambling also suggest putting strategies in place for your “Big Game” celebration, before and during the game, to keep yourself a winner!

  • If you place a bet, look at it as entertainment and NOT a way to make money or win back previous losses.
  • Limit the amount of drinking when you’re gambling – the more you drink the more money you’re likely to bet.
  • Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose – set a money limit and stick with it!

Help is Available

If you or someone you know struggles with gambling call or text the 24-hour, free and confidential Helpline: 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) or visit

About The Center:
The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling (The Center) is part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and is funded by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene/Behavioral Health Administration. The Center promotes healthy and informed choices regarding gambling and problem gambling for individuals and communities in the state of Maryland through treatment, prevention, training and education, public awareness, research and public policy. For more information, visit