By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
October 7, 2022
Sports gambling has the potential to create more problems than traditional casino gambling due to the betters’ emotional attachment to teams and the “illusion” that sports is less random, experts on the subject say.
More than half of the states in the U.S. now allow some form of online sports betting, and North Carolina legislators are considering legalization, too. The North Carolina House narrowly defeated (52-49) a bill this summer that would have legalized betting on professional sports and out-of-state horse racing — all from the ease of a smartphone. Supporters are expected to try and pass the bill again in the near future.
Critics of sports gambling, though, warn that the unique nature of sports betting will lead to a boom in gambling addiction.
The leading professional leagues — including the NFL, NBA and NHL — have embraced sports gambling and encouraged their fans to do likewise. Television broadcasts are filled with ads for such companies as DraftKings and FanDuel.
Unlike a decade ago, a sports wager doesn’t require a visit to a casino or a phone call to a bookmaker. In at least half the country, it only requires a tap on a smartphone.
A 2018 Supreme Court case opened the door for states to legalize sports wagering.
“All these types of betting didn’t exist before,” Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, told The Washington Post. “What are they going to do to the betting landscape?”
Brianne Doura-Schawohl, who advocates for responsible gambling, warns that sports gambling addiction is already a “public crisis.”
“We basically have poured kerosene on it by legalizing without giving it significant attention,” she said. “It’s only going to become more prominent and more severe in its presentation.”
Sports gambling is emotionally and psychologically different from other types of gambling, experts say. For starters, betters often have a life-long emotional attachment to certain teams that they wouldn’t have to a Las Vegas card game, for example. Second, betters are more likely to think they can “outsmart” the oddsmakers of DraftKings and FanDuel apps due to their personal knowledge about sports.
“Psychologically, it’s a little different,” Fong said. “You’re not necessarily betting to make money; you’re betting to make yourself look smarter.”
A 2019 study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors found that “sports betting, relative to non-sports betting, has been more strongly linked to gambling problems and cognitive distortions related to illusion of control, probability control and interpretive control.”
The ease of sports gambling — betters can place a wager from their couch while watching the game — only adds to the danger of addiction.
“You can play as fast as you want, as quick as you want. The technology makes it so fast and so easy,” Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, told The Post. “All of a sudden, how much money are we spending? Before you know it, you’re going down the rabbit hole.”
Already, children and teens who watch sports on television are inundated with gambling ads that make it seem fun and easy. Parents may be tempted to change channels during commercials, yet that only has limited success; the play-by-play broadcasters often promote sports gambling sites during the game itself.
“Think about the ads,” Maney said. “Every one of these kids is seeing them — Facebook, Instagram, every game you watch. If you’re a 12-, 14-year-old — the backdrop is DraftKings. Why wouldn’t they gamble?”
In America, Doura-Schawohl said, sports are “like a religion.”
“We use it to define who we are. The allure is of much more significance. [Bettors] will not only underestimate how much they’re spending, they will minimize the harm that may be possible because it’s linked to sports.”
Fong said she is “worried” about the future.
“We don’t know what it’s doing to a new generation under the age of 21,” Fong told The Post. “Before, you couldn’t even talk about gambling without someone saying, ‘You can’t talk about gambling.’ This generation is growing up with gambling on their TVs. All we can say is that it is a critical issue: The earlier you start gambling — and gambling regularly — that’s the biggest risk factor for addiction.”