The legalization of sports betting has created a buzz in the sports world, and many people have been buying into the prospect of 'winning big'. With more and more states deciding to legalize sports betting, it goes to question if this growth within the sports betting world is truly beneficial to society. The biggest draw to sports betting, and any betting for that matter, is that desire to hopefully benefit financially, however many fail to realize the future implications that it can have on an individual's life if not done safely. The sports leagues and other businesses will side with legalization, since at its root it will benefit them greatly, increasing their revenues and overall popularity. As a society, especially for younger individuals, having an understanding and being aware of the risks and potential implications are key in helping future generations not to fall into the addictive desire that comes with sports betting. Overall, this will continue to help raise revenue of businesses and sports leagues, but it will also hurt society if we don't take necessary steps to combat addiction and improper betting habits.
The sports betting industry took a major milestone in 2018, when the Supreme Court decided to legalize betting in states beyond Nevada. A total of 33 states are legal betting states, a number that is expected to increase within the next 5 years. According to a research study done by the American Gaming Association, during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic an estimated $1.5 billion was generated in sports betting revenue in the U.S, a number that was up 69% compared to 2019 (Schapiro). The increased legalization around the country has seen sports betting apps like FanDuel and DraftKings making an increased effort to get consumers logging into and using their apps. Major sporting events like the Super Bowl are able to create interest, through the use of marketing and advertisements. During the 2021 Super Bowl, it was reported that the betting app DraftKings spent a total of $7 million dollars to air two 15 second ads during the live broadcast (Fischer). The first ad showcased a leather-clad spokescharacter called the "Goddess of
Fortune'', promoting a free $1 million bet. The second showed spokeswoman Jessie Coffield speaking about a free fourth quarter prediction challenge, where viewers were able to guess a certain outcome during the game. In all of 2021, DraftKings spent a total of $981 million in sales and marketing costs. This increased effort has seen revenue skyrocket for these apps. DraftKings made a total of $1.30 billion, more than 100% increase from the year prior. A quote by Dustin Gouker of the Legal Sports Report, a publication that regularly covers sports betting, stated, "It feels like there's been a tipping point in the last year where sports betting feels a part of the sports consciousness" (Fischer).
The major sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, have all greatly seen the benefits that sports betting has had on business and growth. With betting, increased fan engagement and viewership are two factors that have greatly increased. According to the PwC report, "more than $4 billion in additional annual revenue will be generated for the four major sports leagues in the U.S due to increased fan engagement and viewership as a direct result of the court ruling (legalization of sports betting). Sponsorship, ticket sales, merchandising and media rights will be impacted by the appetite of sports gamblers in the United States, projecting growth at a 3 percent compound annual rate until 2022" (Andrews). This article was written in 2018, and the expected outcomes were accurate. In 2021, the NFL generated a total of $17.2 billion compared to $13.68 billion in 2017, before the legalization of sports betting. This continued rise in revenue will allow sports leagues to continue to grow and boost popularity.
As mentioned previously, accessibility is one of the many reasons why sports betting has seen an increase in popularity. With the age of social media, information is easily passed in a matter of seconds. Sports betting apps have been able to use the technologies today to increase popularity and growth. A research study conducted by Emily Deans, a research strategy and
design coordinator at Youth Solutions, sought to observe the influence marketing and social media has on encouraging young individuals to partake in online sports betting. Deans interviewed individuals aged between 20 and 30, asking them four questions: How do marketing mechanisms seek to create a cultural alignment between betting and sports? Is there evidence that marketing strategies may be influencing new betting "identities" associated with sports? Do specific forms of promotions encourage young men to gamble more frequently and on events that they would not otherwise bet on? Are there specific strategies that may have the potential to reduce or prevent the risks or harms posed by the marketing for these products? What was found was that the most common medium that drew the most influence was television ads during regular scheduled programming and sports programming. An interesting find within this study was that individuals also viewed sports betting as "accepted" or "normal", that many people at that age were doing it and that exposure to marketing ads "desensitized" their viewpoint on betting (Deans). Another interesting finding within the study stated that, "some young men felt trapped by the amount of marketing for sports betting products" (Deans).
Another study similar to Deans conducted by Darragh McGee, a lecturer at the University of Bath in the UK, sought to also observe how sports betting has become part of culture for young adult men aged 20 to 30. The findings were similar to Deans, there were common themes that were presented based on the data: betting was seen as a normalized aspect of sport fandom, the role of mobile app technologies in the proliferation of sports gambling, the impact of incentivisation strategies and in-play promotional offers on gambling behaviors, and one point that I found interesting, sports gambling could potentially be considered a 'gateway' to other problems (McGee). Betting in general is all about risk, and what you are willing to risk. Many people, specifically younger people, will be drawn to the desire to win big. However, in order to
win big, risking big is usually what is required. The common theme for many who struggle with this is that they are all trying to gain back what they lost. An individual who was a part of the study stated that, "I checked the tool that tells you how much you've bet over a six month period. I'd staked £41,000. I was working a minimum wage job not even clearing £15,000, and I was able to do that online in just six months. After that, you think maybe I can become a master gambler so I could sack in work at the call center" (McGee). Essentially, sports betting and the stigma of it have become very commonplace in today's age, more and more people are becoming exposed to it because of the legalization and growth it has seen over the past few years.
Addiction and other unhealthy tendencies unfortunately stem from individuals who don't practice proper sports betting habits. In Rich Schapiro's article, "Sports betting skyrocketed in pandemic. Experts warn of a 'ticking time bomb", he interviews a few indivduals who went over board and experienced great loss and various other problems when it came to over betting. In an interview with an individual, who requested anonymity out of fear his identity could wind up costing his job, who struggled with betting spoke on his struggle with the addictive nature that came with betting. This individual lived a good life: wife, kids, Fortune 500 job. However during the COVID-19 pandemic, since he was stuck at home like many others, sports betting became his vice. Throwing away money became common, to a point where this individual had to take out four high interest loans and clean out his retirement plan in order just to break back to even. The interviewee stated, "I'm so ashamed of myself, I cry at night. I can barely look at my daughter. I can barely look at my wife" (Schapiro).
Another article written by Marie Fazio in the New York Times spoke on how easy it is for individuals to be sucked in and trapped into the world of sports betting. She interviewed Saul Malek, an individual who struggled with a sports betting addiction. Malek, a big sports fan,
started betting in college and recounted that his first win made him feel like a "big shot". This excitement unfortunately caused him to "chase that feeling again". The article stated that, "he never considered that sports betting could escalate to an addiction that would lead him to lie, cheat, and manipulate people for money" (Fazio). And unfortunately for Malek, he had to learn the hard way. Although there are efforts to increase awareness of the dangers of betting, it seems that it is failing to reach individuals, specifically the younger generation. The most common demographic for sports bettors are individuals under the age of 35, single, educated and employed or just beginning their careers. And in terms of different individuals who bet, a study done by the National Council on Problem Gambling found that the most problematic gamblers are sports bettors (Fazio). For those who bet in college, about 6 percent of students have a gambling problem, which unfortunately also causes other problems like psychological difficulties, debt, and poor performance in school (Fazio). Dr. Fong, a director of the Gambling Studies Program at UCLA states that young adults are at risk of developing a gambling problem if there is a family history of gambling. The need for programs and outlets in order to treat individuals with gambling problems has unfortunately been outpaced, causing a lack of these resources to be offered. Within the last two years, the need for treatment for gambling problems has more than doubled according to Rick Benson, the founder of the Algamus Gambling Recovery Center in Arizona (Fazio). Unfortunately, topics like addiction to drugs, alchohol, and sex are common in schools and concersations wthin households. However, betting addiction is something that is rarely discussed. This can lead to the underestimation of the addictive nature that comes with sports betting and other forms of it.
Although individuals will greatly benefit from programs and services that combat betting addiction, more resources need to be offered in a way that not only appeals to individuals, but
also can convince the public that it is okay to seek help. Because of the cultural aspect, many will believe that there is no problem with the addictive habits that are attached to betting, because if everyone is doing something then there is no problem or reason as to seek help. In a study done by Robey Champine, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Division of Public Health at Michigan State University, he found that individuals who sought treatment from psychologists were 60% more likely to recover and eventually rid themselves of addictive habits that came with betting. It is important for individuals to also realize that sports betting is not a free of risk thing that anyone can do, it should be taken with some seriousness, especially if an individual is one to be easily hooked onto something. The way sports betting is marketed is like a game without risk, however it is just the opposite.
In order to fight the addictive tendencies that are attached to sports betting, it is important to first admit that there is in fact a problem. Many people will deny they have a problem, or worse don't even realize what they are doing is a problem. If someone relies on sports betting in order to feel some type of happiness, or depends on it to make financial gains, then seeking help for these issues would be beneficial. Many people who do sports bet are constantly wired in, surrounding most of their days constantly checking odd changes and different bets they can make in order to gain the most money. Avoiding this temptation and trying to limit the use of gambling apps or the desire to tune into sports broadcasts can also help. Joining a support group or seeking help and speaking to someone trustworthy is another way to talk about your problem in a healthy way. Speaking with people who also share the same problems, and who share the same story can also help in creating a positive mind and hopefully can lead to closure if dealing with guilt. Finding alternative activities that an individual can replace with sports betting is one way to shift focus and gravitate to other things that are worth your time.
The sports betting industry is on the rise, and will continue to grow over the next few years. The revenue will continue to grow, and the popularity of sport will continue to drive individuals to tune in and eventually start betting. Financially, the sports leagues will benefit the most, increasing revenue year after year with the increased popularity. The sports betting apps will also benefit financially, with more and more people using the apps in hopes to win. Unfortunately, the main culprit will always be the consumer, in that there is more risk for them to lose than to win. That is why implementing proper programs and resources to combat this are important. The most important thing is trying to create a culture that sees sports betting addiction on the same level as drug or substance addiction. It is a real problem that needs to be addressed so that it doesn't further harm society. The implications of sports betting outweigh whatever pros that have been addressed. An individual's life is more important than that of any satisfaction there is in winning a bet on a NBA or NFL game.