Betting on the performance of players and outcomes of sporting events is becoming increasingly popular among viewers as an estimated 46 million people plan to bet on the upcoming NFL season. Further, sports betting largely impacts minors, evidenced by an Australian study published in April 2019. The study — authored by Rebecca Jenkinson for the Australian Gambling Research Centre — reported that nearly a quarter of participants recalled making their first sports bet when they were under the age of 18. Of all men who engaged in sports betting, 70% were in danger of a gambling addiction. As sports gambling makes its way into legislation and TV ads across the country, voters and leaders should question whether it’s all in good fun or could be seriously harmful.
Sports gambling is currently illegal in Missouri; there was a push within the state to legalize it earlier this year, but the effort was shut down in the senate. However, the pastime is legal in 38 other states for those 21 years old and older. Sports-betters contact “bookies” who basically contract out odds for specific events to accept bets and pay out to winners.
The ability to make hundreds of dollars in a matter of minutes is consistently cited among those surveyed in Jenkinson’s study as the main reason they began betting. Even by just dipping a toe into the water, individuals predisposed to gambling addictions could begin betting hundreds of dollars or more. In an interview by the Quinnipiac Chronicle, a student said that he would spend upwards of $1000 per week on different bets. It all started after his first win, which is known as a “hook.”
Many sports personalities, be it from “Barstool Sports” promote a cross synergy between their existing brand and different betting agencies through accepting partnerships and backend business deals. The audience for these types of shows is over 25% college students, according to Civic Science. Unfortunately, teens and college-aged individuals are more impressionable and may be predisposed to engage in gambling by exposure like this.
The situation regarding gambling among youth also persists in the video game industry, where mobile games will promote the purchase of “loot boxes,” comparable to spinning a slot machine. However, the audience for these mobile games are often young children and teens who are unable to fully distinguish between right and wrong. Similar to sports betting, the cycle of gambling addiction may be beginning earlier for young children through these avenues..
As neighboring states — most recently, Kansas — legalize sports betting, exposure to impressionable children, teens and college-aged people may increase greatly. The Australian Gambling Research Centre notes that marketing-based strategies from sports-betting companies are strong, whether it’s social-media-based promotions or online ads. They advise individuals to limit their exposure to material, such as online or in physical marketing. Building efficient programs that aid in the rehabilitation of gambling addicts, especially those that are young, will also help to minimize the consequences. Overall, sports betting is becoming more and more popular, so individuals should take caution when participating or limit their exposure to it.