Sounds like an addiction but not a harmful one

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

During the month of September, when the start of the NFL season overlaps with baseball, Ryan Paradis will spend an average of four hours a day on the Internet doing fantasy research.

That's 28 hours a week, or almost five whole days of sitting in front of the computer instead of enjoying the last month of summer.

While that may seem dangerously close to an addiction, the 28-year-old Winnipegger insists he has a firm grip on his hobby.

"I've never seen any real drawbacks," Paradis said. "It doesn't affect me socially. I go out. I don't ever stay at home and cancel something because I need to stay on the computer and research.

"I never dropped out of school. I haven't lost my job. I haven't had to go deal with a bookie. I've never gone broke. Or anything like that."

STUDY

UNLV professor Dr. Bo Bernhard did a study on fantasy sports last year and found only a few instances of the phenomenon taking over someone's life.

"People talked about how 'My wife banned me for a year,' or 'I spend so much time researching these players,' " Dr. Bernhard said. "... People talked about the time commitment and how that really sort of interfered with their everyday life, either their work life or their family life.

"So there certainly were horror stories, both in terms of effects on work and effects on family, but those seem to be very much the exception rather than the rule. But it's certainly something that exists."

John Borody, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba CEO, has never admitted a patient with a fantasy sports problem. That doesn't mean they aren't out there, however.

"That's the challenge for the system," Borody said. "Not only is it going to be difficult for the government to monitor, it's going to be really difficult for us to intercede unless a family member contacts us.

"Otherwise they could be sitting in their basement all the time and nobody would ever know."

The inability to properly monitor fantasy plays also makes it difficult to determine whether or not fantasy sports leads to more serious forms of gambling, like wagering illegally on games.

"We're only starting to scratch the surface to really understand what gambling is and what it means for us," Dr. Bernhard said.

"Fantasy sports is sort of a sub-culture within the culture of gambling, and virtually nothing has been done on that, even though it is really sort of a beast on the scene."

Paradis, for one, doesn't believe fantasy leads to more expensive or dangerous forms of gambling.

"The numbers of guys I've probably interacted with in these things is pretty big -- even some girls, too -- and I've not seen one instance of that," he said.

Mike Shiner of Thornhill, Ont., has wagered on games using both bookies and offshore websites, and also dabbles in Sport Select. Fantasy, however, is still his favourite.

"I've seen some bad cases where people get in bad with bookies because they chase," Shiner said. "You can't really chase in a hockey pool.

"I've seen guys lose the shirts off their backs because they chase games and chase games. I don't need that kind of anxiety in my life.

"The pools are enough excitement for me."


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