It’s interesting that North Carolina legalized sports gambling right smack in the middle of Problem Gambling Awareness Month (March), but it’s not surprising that, the same day sports betting became legal, state officials put out a warning to residents encouraging them not to overdo it and to seek help if they do.

It is, after all, the same state that prints the gambling problem hotline number on the back of lottery tickets.

As of noon, Monday, March 11, sports betting became legal across North Carolina and it was at about that same time that the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) announced that it’s increasing its efforts to prevent, treat and help anyone who experiences harm due to a gambling problem.

According to state stats, just over 5 percent of adults and 10 percent of youths in North Carolina have some sort of gambling related problem. It frequently spills over and has a negative effect on family members as well.

Gambling addiction is considered gambling behavior that “disrupts someone’s life, or the lives of people close to them, such as parents, siblings or friends.”

In addition to an information campaign, state health officials are working with community partners and schools to spread the knowledge that free help for your gambling problem is available if you need it, and also the related message that recovery is possible.

The state is also adding an additional $2 million to the state budget to help provide services related to problem gambling as well as to prevent it in the first place.

NCDHHS is also retooling some of its prevention programs so they concentrate more on sports betting – which is, of course, already the rage in the state based on the number of ads on TV and elsewhere for betting apps and sites.

Some of the signs you have a gambling problem are using betting to counter depression, spending more and more money and time gambling, placing bets using money you have to borrow, chasing losses or lying to others about how much you gamble.

Here are some of the state’s initiatives meant to help those with a gambling  problem:

• Providing prevention education on college campuses regarding the risks of sports betting.

• Funding the Gambling Research and Policy Initiative as well as working with East Carolina University to “better research and understand gambling behavior, attitudes and risks.”

• Partnering with Tar Heel Athletics to promote problem gambling and responsible gaming campaign during March Madness, which has just begun.

• Supporting NC Problem Gambling Programs to provide prevention education for college students at Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill, High Point University and Chowan University.

• Offering Youth Prevention Grants to middle schools, high schools and community organizations to implement a gambling prevention curriculum.

If you do find yourself needing help, North Carolina’s Problem Gambling Helpline is 877-718-5543.  The line is adding helpers to meet an expected increase in calls.