Sports betting’s popularity grew substantially during the COVID-19 pandemic, with Americans’ legal sports wagers totaling $21.5 billion in 2020, up from $13 billion in 2019.
Via the American Gaming Association: View
Online sports betting giant DraftKings brought in $614 million in revenue in 2020 and expects to generate $1 billion in 2021.
Via CBS News: View
20%-%40 of U.S. gamblers seeking treatment report suicidal ideation and/or suicide attempts within the last year.
Via CalGETS: View
96% of U.S. adolescents are exposed to gambling ads.
Via CTG: View
One of the biggest obstacles faced by those seeking to curb their sports betting addiction is the gaming industry itself. While illegal bookmakers and state-sanctioned sportsbooks in Nevada have been profiting off of problem gamblers for many decades, the 2018 Supreme Court decision enabling states across the U.S. to legalize sports betting has paved the way for a massive industry expansion. In October 2020 alone, Americans collectively spent a record-breaking $3 billion on legal sports bets. The concurrent growth of online and mobile sports betting has created opportunities to bet anywhere, anytime, as often as one wants.
For those experiencing or susceptible to gambling addiction, this explosion in sports betting is risky business. The media and hype surrounding sports betting can make enticements to gamble almost impossible to escape. When fans watch a game, they are likely to see DraftKings logos in the stadium, or FanDuel ads peppered throughout the commercial breaks. There is now an ecosystem of gambling-related sports commentary—from mainstream outlets to gambling influencers who sell “picks” for a living—all of which promotes the idea that big wins can be achieved through the obsessive, calculated study of statistics and betting strategy.
Gamblers are led to believe that if they invest more of their time and energy (and, of course, money) into the sports betting world, they will be one of the few who comes out on top. But the truth is that a majority of sports betters lose over time. Even “successful” gamblers will admit that the increased availability of sports betting is poised to create problems that are tantamount to what we’d see with the legalization of cocaine or crystal meth.
States and gaming industry executives will claim that legalized sports betting is good for gamblers because it allows for regulation and “transparency.” But like other areas of the gaming industry, sports betting is set up to enable gambling addiction. With legalization creating an atmosphere of normalization and many powerful stakeholders standing to profit, the odds are stacked in favor of the industry’s continued growth—and the continued proliferation of gambling addiction.