I met Arthur back in the early 1990’s. We both were doing sports collector conventions, and found ourselves on the same airplane flights as we both lived in south Florida, and were traveling to the same destinations. We became friends, and to save on expenses we sometimes shared a hotel room. I learned that Arthur had been an attorney, but no longer practiced law. One night he shared with me the reason why.

Arthur had been making a very good income with a legal practice in New Jersey. He had all the trappings of success: wife, children, a beautiful home, and many well-to-do clients.

He also had a life long passion for sports, and a bookie. What started out as a recreational choice of betting on sports games would develop into a serious habit, an addiction. His gambling completely took over his life, and ruined his career.

At one point, he had gotten so deep in debt that he gambled away a client’s trust account. This got him disbarred, divorced, and he barely escaped serious physical harm, and going to prison.

“Mike, I had so many bets going on all the time that I couldn’t even keep track of them,” I remember him saying. “It happened more than once that I discovered that I had placed bets on both of the teams in a game. There was no way I could win; the best I could do is break even.”

“We have an expression in Gamblers Anonymous,” he said. “When you get down with losses you think that you are just one bet away from getting even, so you bet again. You get even- even deeper in debt.”

Arthur hit his bottom, got help, and turned his life around, but many don’t.

If you had watched any football games this past weekend you would have been deluged with sports betting commercials. They make their pitch so enticing, so easy to get started. They want you to give it a try. You are being targeted.

“The National Football League is the 800-pound gorilla for sports betting. It’s the one sport where you’ll see a lot of casual sports betters come out,” said Kevin Hennessy, director of publicity for FanDuel Group.

The fact is that since 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with New Jersey’s challenge to Nevada’s monopoly on sports betting, Americans have wagered more than $65 billion on sports. Over 20 states have legalized sports wagering, and North Carolina may be next.

A new bill is working its way through the state legislature that would allow up to 12 companies to offer legal gambling on professional, amateur, and college sports in our state.

The rates of gambling addictions have been rising, and young people are the most vulnerable group.

Upward of 80% of high school students report having gambled for money according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. Male athletes, age 18-24 are the highest risk group. Athletes believe in their own skill and knowledge. If you combine substance use/abuse, which lowers inhibitions and affects judgement, you have a recipe for disaster.

If a young better has an early big win, he may jump in with both feet. The gambler gets addicted to the adrenaline rush of having that money at risk.

My friend Arthur told me, “a serious gambler will only tell you about his big wins, not his horrible losses, and where that took him.”

I believe we may be at the cusp of another pandemic in America, and it is not a virus. It is legalized sports betting. I agree with Kenny Rogers in his song “The Gambler.” If you go down deep that slippery slope, “the best you cane hope for is to die in your sleep.”

Mike Wood is a correspondent for The Daily Advance.