Betting madness 

A 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision paved the way for states across the country to legalize and regulate sports betting. Now sports betting is legalized in 33 states with varying degrees of regulation and close to unlimited access.

With March Madness tournaments starting this week, the American Gaming Association predicts 68 million Americans could participate and wager about $15.5 billion. A survey found that about 18 million more Americans will participate compared to February’s Super Bowl.

A large amount of participation and wagers can be traced to how accessible sports betting is for anyone over the age of 21. Apps like FanDuel, Sportsbook and DraftKings allow close to 24/7 access to a multitude of different games for people to place bets right on their phones.

However, this ease of access and increased participation has caused some public health concerns regarding the dangers of irresponsible gaming and gambling addictions. While creating brackets and placing bets for March Madness may be fun, the National Council on Problem Gambling has dubbed March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

The National Council on Problem Gambling stated that international data shows about 1% of people who gamble will develop a serious gambling problem. However, online or electronic sports betting exacerbates this problem.

“A national online gambling survey conducted in the U.S. in late 2018 included additional questions for those who reported sports betting in the prior year. Sports bettors [5%-7%] endorsed the ‘many times’ response option for each of the four problem gambling items at approximately twice the rate of nonsports bettors [2%-3%],” according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.

The National Council on Problem Gambling attributes quite a few reasons why online or electronic sports betting might be more dangerous. The first is the demographic it draws in — young, single men. The second is that it is catered to a specific interest that people believe they have expert knowledge in — sports.

According to MAYO Clinic, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder can have detrimental impacts on an individual’s health and livelihood. 

It also stated gambling disorders may look like an excessive amount of bets and an increasing amount of money placed, the compulsive need to make up lost wagers, hiding your gambling and the willingness to risk work or personal relationships for gambling.

However, the different types of wagers are expanding, and people can place or change wagers midgame. The Atlantic wrote that these different changes and expansion of bets could lead to even more problem gambling. 

Another growing concern for sports betting is the harassment against student-athletes. This has existed prior to sports betting, but now there are new, higher stakes for student-athletes and losing games.

A 24-year-old Florida man was sentenced to 36 months of probation after pleading guilty to harassing and threatening collegiate and professional-level players after losing bets he placed. 

States and sports betting sites are trying to counteract this by encouraging responsible play and blacklisting any bettors who harass athletes. 

On the other hand, there are some benefits to legalized sports betting. In Ohio, about 98% of the total tax profits is going back into the funding for public and private K-12 Ohio education. 

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission estimated that revenue from sports betting in the state is expected to total about $3.35 billion per year.

There is responsible sports betting and gambling. However, individuals should be aware of the potential to develop gambling problems and the risk of excessive gambling. For gambling addiction resources, go to the National Council on Problem Gambling website or call 1-800-522-4700.