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Expert: Powerball Game Could Tempt Recovering Gamblers to Backslide

Wednesday's Powerball drawing could be worth $1.5 billion or more, but experts are concerned that many people may spend too much money buying lottery tickets when they can't afford them. (MRichardson)
Wednesday's Powerball drawing could be worth $1.5 billion or more, but experts are concerned that many people may spend too much money buying lottery tickets when they can't afford them. (MRichardson)
January 13, 2016

PHOENIX - With the Powerball lottery payout reaching $1.5 billion as of late Tuesday, there is concern that many people could be spending beyond their means to buy lottery tickets.

Just in the last week, Lottery officials say Arizona residents spent more than $30 million on the Powerball game in hopes of taking the big prize. But Arnie Wexler, a recovering gambling addict who counsels others with the compulsion, says big lottery prizes can be very dangerous.

"This is an impulse disorder," says Wexler. "And with all the smashing around and with the media talking about this issue, people get juiced up and some people relapse. I've gotten six calls and people that I've spoken to that have relapsed in the last week with this lottery stuff."

The odds of picking the winning number in the Powerball drawing are 292 million-to-one, according to officials with the Arizona Lottery.

Wexler has written several books on compulsive gambling. He says big lottery payouts and major sports events, such as the upcoming Super Bowl, are danger zones for anyone with a gambling problem, or even someone who usually doesn't gamble but gets caught up in the hype.

Wexler, who says he overcame a compulsive gambling habit in 1968, has some advice for people who think they are going to win the big payout by buying a batch of tickets.

"Keep your money in your pocket," says Wexler. "Your chances of getting hit by lightning and dying are probably 20 times greater than hitting the lottery like that. If you're in recovery, you should be attending a 12-step group for gambling and you should have a sponsor and be able to talk to people about it."

The Powerball drawing is set for Wednesday night, and the latest you can buy a ticket is 7:59 p.m. Arizona time. And if you feel like your gambling is getting out of control, there is a 1-800 number on the back of every lottery ticket you can call for help.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ