by Brandon Reiter & Mason Gruber
In 2013, New Jersey became the first state to permit the operation of an online casino. In 2021, 11 states legalized online gambling, raising the total to 30 states where gambling is now legal. Maryland and Nebraska also have legislation in place to soon join the list.
Combined with the isolation brought on by the Global Pandemic and the continuous legalization of online casinos across the country, online gambling as exploded over the last year. While states are reaping huge tax revenues as a result of the legalization, the lack of awareness in regard to the harm and side effects the economy and nation will suffer from as a result of gambling is deeply concerning and needs to be addressed. Gambling can be fun if done responsible but gambling addiction is a serious disease that poses consequential ripple effects harmful to society and our country as a whole.
Sports betting generated a whopping $3.16 billion in revenue during the first 10 months of 2021, up 230% from the same period in 2020. In the US alone, forecasts estimate $2.5 billion in revenue from sports betting in 2021. The number of Americans who placed a sports bet grew by 30% (15.3 million people) in the 18-month period ending September 2021. Americans wagered a total $52.7 billion in 2021 on sports bets. Sportsbooks invested over $1 billion in advertising, leading to an 80% increase in the amount of bettors who place a bet at least once per month.
As the numbers show, the online sports betting market exploded in 2021.
Around 5% of gamblers report having a serious addiction; while this may seem like a low percentage, when you consider the vast and growing market, the amount of people suffering from a gambling problem is sure to balloon in the same way the industry has.
In 2021, 75% of college students reported having placed a bet in the past year. The risk of developing a gambling addiction more than doubles for young adults in a college setting, and and estimated 6% of American college students suffer from a gambling problem. That 6% of college students compared to the 5% of adults who regularly place bets. Plenty of other surveys confirm that the risk of developing an addiction increases for young adults.
Gambling problems don’t just infect their host (leading to mental illness, PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse), but they can also inflict a more broad harm to society. Roughly 50% of people with a gambling problem have committed a crime in order to support their addiction. Not to mention the toll the economy would take if consumers gamble away their discretionary spending money.
Yes, people should be responsible for their own behavior, but I believe that the misleading advertising campaigns by the country’s largest sportsbooks is attracting new and YOUNG bettors through deception, enticing them to begin a highly addictive, contagious and detrimental hobby they might not have experienced had it not been for the plethora of misleading advertising that’s gone unregulated across the country.
The most common advertising campaign I see used by almost every popular sports books is the “Risk Free Bet”. Essentially, the Sportsbooks promote that new customers can place their first bet (in some cases up to $3000) with no risk. When seeing the words “risk free” a reasonable person would assume that means if their bet loses they’ll get their money back. That’s not how it works. The way the sportsbook word it and pay out the “risk free” money is in credits that must be wagered in order to be redeemed. So while they are “technically” giving you back the value of the bet you lose, you still have to risk it again in order to be able to withdraw it. Nothing about that this promotion “risk-free”. In fact, it is the very definition of risk. Below is an example:
It is nearly impossible to scroll through Instagram without seeing an ad for one of these risk free bets, and guess what one of Instagram’s biggest demographic is? College students. These ads are targeting the young adults who are way more susceptible to developing the detrimental gambling problems described above.
This is nothing new. We saw the same exact type of crisis happen with JUUL in 2018 &2019. By using flavored vape cartridges, JUUL enticed teenagers to develop harmful smoking habits. Studies showed that teens were 16 times more likely to use JUUL than any other age group and more than half of those teens had never consumed a tobacco product prior. In January of 2020 the FDA announced a ban on almost all flavored vape cartridges, yet it is still pretty easy to find a flavored vape and most convenient stores.
The sportsbooks & casinos are essentially following the same path as JUUL did, in terms of enticing young people to develop harmful addictions, by appealing to them with misleading conceptions, in order for them to spend money they don’t have on their products. The FDA eventually stepped in and tried to put an end to the harm JUUL was instilling on America’s youth, but the government is now sitting idly by as the gambling industry is doing the exact same thing.
The last thing the young generation needs on top of crippling student loan debt is a gambling addiction fueled by misleading advertisements directed at them. While gambling your money away might not give you lung cancer, it can certainty lead to other medical and mental issues, not to mention the toll it will inevitably take on the economy. If 6% of college students are developing gambling addictions and that number continues to rise, that is less money to be invested into the economy, less money spent on goods and services, less money invested in the stock market, new ventures, and innovation.
The gambling industry exploded in 2021 and continues to target America’s youth, walking the country down a dangerous slope that could have catastrophic consequences for the country’s mental health and economy.
Gambling has officially become an epidemic, and the government needs to wake up and put a stop to the misrepresentation and unfair targeting of the susceptible youth.