Former Division I student-athlete informs Thundering Herd of gambling-related issues

“If someone doesn’t do something about a gambling addiction it will end in prison or suicide,” Lesa Densmore said on Monday at a gathering of Marshall student athletes and coaches during an 1800Gambler event presented by The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia.

The event was to inform those present of the risks that student athletes face when it comes to a gambling addiction.

Densmore, who is a former NCAA Division I Athlete and a recovering gambling addict, said that in the beginning she had no idea that gambling was addictive and has similar effects to a narcotic.

“Gambling is considered an activity that crosses the brain the same as crack cocaine,” she said. “Take it seriously if you choose to gamble, understand that you can latch on to it as a skill instead of the game of chance that it is.”

Densmore said an athlete’s competitive nature may pose a strong chance of a gambling addiction developing in some athletes.

“That competitive athletic part of me was really kicking in,” she said. “I played gambling like I played basketball. I played gambling like I played field hockey and softball. I played it that way.”

Densmore said when she lost, she strategized and was eager for a rematch and when she won, she wanted the feeling back again.

“I wanted to keep competing with that,” she said. “I felt that it was a good outlet for me. It was a good escape and it was a good replacement drug for sports another avenue for me to compete.”

Densmore said addiction is emotional cancer and that people who develop addiction typically have an emotional dagger to the heart.

“From childhood wounds. From adulthood wounds. From things that hurt. It’s not physical stuff,” she said. “When (athletes) get a physical injury (they) are on it. But we don’t tend to take care of those emotional injuries.”

Densmore said athletes tend to wear loads on their shoulders that they are leaders and they are not to show weakness.

“That does not mean that (they) don’t have things going on in their lives that need to be addressed emotionally,” she said. “Because sometimes (they) feel those holes with things that are not good for us.”

Densmore said that it is important to understand the warning signs of when one becomes occupied with gambling.

“When it becomes something that feels like the single most important thing in your life,” she said.

“When you are thinking about it when you are doing your studies. You are thinking about it on your free time, your down time, and when you wake up in the morning. When you brag about your gambling. When you increase your bet amounts that means that a problem is beginning to occur.”

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling 1 in 50 people in West Virginia already suffered from a gambling addiction before the state legalized sport betting back in August of 2018 becoming the 5th state to do so in the country.

Densmore warned that sports betting is not meant for people to win.

“There is a lot of strategy that goes behind that that many people don’t know about,” she said. “You can’t beat the bookie.”

Millard Stickler can be contacted at [email protected].