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EKU psychologist says sports wagering incentives can be triggering for problem gamblers

EKU Associate Professor of Psychology Joshua Turner
EKU Associate Professor of Psychology Joshua Turner

Legal sports wagering is fully up and running now in Kentucky. Betting on a variety of sports first came into being at brick-and-mortar establishments and then went fully online the end of September. This is expected to bring more money into the Commonwealth. However, there are concerns.

Joshua Turner is an associate professor of psychology at Eastern Kentucky University. He said there are substance-based addictions and process-based addictions. Turner said for those people with a gambling addiction, a mail flyer advertising bonus bets can be enticing.

“If it’s coming from inside your body like I have this physiological need now for this substance versus I’m being exposed to a particular trigger..things like that. So, definitely receiving something in the mail like oh bet five dollars and you get 200 dollars in bets can be a trigger for sure,” said Turner.

For people with this form of addiction, Turner said seeking counseling and/or support through a gamblers’ anonymous organization can be beneficial.

He said it’s difficult to determine where a line should be drawn when it comes to incentives.

“I think in terms of where the line is drawn is really up to the individual person to recognize that they have a gambling addiction and then being able to say Ok, I need to..when I feel triggered I need to call my sponsor, I need to step away..I need to try to avoid whatever my triggers are,” said Turner.

Turner said gambling addiction can be difficult to treat because of what’s termed “variable ratio schedule.” He noted a participant doesn’t know how many times will be needed to respond to get a reward. And Turner added that makes it difficult to extinguish that behavior.

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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