Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Combining Two Addictions

Executive Editor’s Note: Voters passed Amendment 100 in 2018 that authorized casino gambling at certain locations in Arkansas. On Feb. 22, the Arkansas Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee approved a state rule change that permits sports betting online via mobile devices. Under this new rule, gamblers will be able to bet on sporting events online via a computer, smart phone or other mobile device from anywhere in Arkansas.

Larry Page – Immersing ourselves in our iPhones can be unhealthy, or even addictive. Now something we already know is potentially addictive — sports betting — is available on those phones. It seems obvious that making gambling easily available to anyone with a phone and debit card, with few to no restrictions and a ton of advertising encouraging you to place your bets, is going to lead to problems for some people.

“It is an epidemic in the making,” said Felicia Grondin, the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, where online sports betting has been legal since 2018. Since then, she says, it has been easy to understand the impact. Before the summer of 2018, about 3% of the calls to her organization’s helpline for problem gamblers were from people who said they had sports betting problems. Now that number is around 17%.

There’s a lot of money to be made: In the first six weeks that legal online sports betting was available in New York, residents wagered $2.5 billion, which includes nearly $500 million worth of Super Bowl bets. This week’s March Madness college basketball tournament will probably spike those numbers again.

Grondin said she thinks people with sports gambling problems are trickier to detect than, say, someone struggling with substances. “It’s a hidden addiction,” she said. “You don’t smell it on someone’s breath; you can’t see it in their behavior until it’s way too late.”

It’s certainly easy enough to get in trouble with this stuff. Ask Calvin Ridley, the Atlanta Falcons player who bet $1,500 on three NFL games last fall and has now been suspended for at least a year because league rules prohibit players from betting on league games. Ridley’s bets will reportedly end up costing him more than $11 million in lost wages.

It seems obvious that someone, eventually — maybe federal or state regulators, maybe the phone platforms — will want to take a step back and ask, “What have we done and how can we fix it?” I’d bet on it. (Excerpts from an article by Peter Kafka)