As states legalize sports betting, concerns about problem gambling are rising. The disorder – so stigmatized that people don’t seek treatment as readily as help for substance use disorders – affects millions of Americans and can lead to family, financial, and relationship issues. It can also exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Some experts worry that the rise of sports betting will increase the number of people with these problems, and that state-sanctioned gambling will make it even harder for them to find treatment.
In the past, professional sports leagues were opposed to any sort of betting on their games, fearing that it could taint the integrity of the sport. But after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, they began to change their minds, and in 1992, they lobbied heavily for the passage of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or “Bradley Act.”
Despite this, the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting in May 2018, allowing states to decide whether or not to offer it. The gaming industry was already lining up to take advantage, with big-name casinos and restaurants making plans to open their doors, while college sports teams and sports leagues struck deals with gambling companies for marketing promotions.
New Jersey quickly jumped in, offering sports betting in its three brick-and-mortar casinos and on its regulated online sites. Its revenue from sports betting is expected to be a major boon for the state’s budget, and some colleges are also hopping on the bandwagon, signing lucrative contracts with sports betting companies.
But many of these college partnerships are raising concerns, particularly among students and their families. Some of these deals include ad space on sports pages and online that promotes the gambling company, and a professor who studies the effects of gambling says that it’s important for educators to keep an eye on how advertising for sports betting is displayed on campus.
One issue is that student-athletes often place bets with their friends or teammates, and the rise of sports betting means they have more access to information about upcoming games. A study last year showed that nearly one in 20 Division I men’s basketball student-athletes had been contacted for this kind of insider information, and that number is likely to grow with the proliferation of online sports betting.
Another concern is that sports betting has become increasingly embedded in the culture of sports, with announcers and commentators mentioning point spreads and over/under lines before each game and using them as part of postgame analysis. This is in addition to thousands of betting tip channels and social media posts by professional gamblers, as well as segments on TV shows devoted to sports betting. Experts say that public health strategies for gambling need to go beyond current individual determinant and responsibility paradigms to address the socio-cultural influences on young people’s attitudes toward, and engagement with, sports betting. inislot