Sports Gambling Addiction Is a Rising Public Health Concern

Ryan Fan I went to vote for president, I encountered a variety of ordinances I had to vote “yes” or “no” for that seemed very obscure. With all the chaos of the 2020 election, these ordinances seemed like small fry (they really were not), but one ordinance stuck out to me — voting on whether to legalize sports gambling in Maryland. I voted in the affirmative.

I love sports. Recently, I watched Gonzaga defeat UCLA in a thrilling Final Four game before the college basketball March Madness Tournament. My friends and I pooled in a small amount of money for the winner to take all. We did the same for a fantasy football league. Gambling on sports simply makes you more invested in a game, but voting to legalize sports betting simply fits into my laissez-faire views on social issues — people should be able to do whatever they want unless they don’t harm anyone.

A smaller headline in light of the 2020 election was the legalization of sports betting in Maryland, Louisiana, and North Dakota, making sports betting legal in 25 of 50 states. Again, I think this is a good thing, but sports gambling is being legalized at a very rapid rate. It’s impossible not to see ads from DraftKings and FanDuel advertising daily sports gambling.

The legalization of sports gambling has had massive legal and societal implications. The main focus of this article is the rapid rise of gambling addictions, but the rise is only possible in the wake of a Supreme Court decision three years ago that gave states the power to legalize and regulate sports gambling, overturning the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act.

Sports gambling is not only growing more legal than ever. It’s growing more legal than ever. It takes less than a minute to put all your life savings on an NBA game this week.

Some of my good friends don’t tell me how much they bet on the Super Bowl or various sports games. But from what I can gather, it is a lot of money.

We should be careful about sports gambling

According to Jeff Bell at Forbes, the financial and emotional engagement people can give to sports gambling can expose them to financial risks. Sports gambling sites often advertise themselves as “risk-free” and “no-brainer” in an opportunity to get more people to bet.

Sports gambling is seen as harmless and easy. It’s seen as a way to socialize.

And because of that view of sports gambling, we should be careful. Bell argues the sports gambling industry needs significantly more education, regulation, and accountability to ensure safety.

“We shouldn’t wait for online sports betting to become a problem; we should push for preemptive action from operators and state governments,” Bell says.

Bell reports 23.2 million Americans made plans to bet on the Super Bowl, and people collectively made $4.3 billion to bet on the game. There was a 63% increase in sports gambling betting online from the previous year. The industry as a whole made $1 billion in revenue last year.

In particular, Bell is concerned about the intersection of and gambling. Gambling problems may be on the increase — the National Council on Problem Gaming found sports bettors have higher rates of gambling and more and more sports gambling is taking place online. Sports gamblers who gamble on their phones are particularly susceptible to addiction, as are young adults.

While he does not advocate for a total ban on sports betting, Bell advocates prohibiting TV advertising on sports betting. He says sports gamblers should not be able to advertise on ESPN or sponsor programming that discusses wagering odds or spreads. Often, in these ads, there are no warnings on the risks of gambling.

“These ads normalize gambling without addressing any of the hazards, and this is especially dangerous for children watching.”


Sports gambling is fun. It’s a great way to unite with friends. It’s entertaining. It makes you more engaged in sports. And it’s incredibly easy to do.

And that’s particularly why we should be more careful. While America legalizes sports gambling and while people should be able to do whatever they want to do, sports gambling is not harmless.

I don’t mean to sound too preachy here, but knowing the warning signs for sports gambling goes a long way. According to the Mayo Clinic, some rules to follow include never borrowing money for gambling, avoiding lines of credit or ATM machines, not drinking and gambling, and only betting what we can afford to lose.

Some warning signs include lying to conceal how much we lose in sports gambling or not being able to stop sports gambling.

The sports gambling industry wants us to gamble more, with FanDuel, DraftKings, and prominent UK sports gambling company Bet365 spending over $200 million on advertising. It’s more acceptable and okay to sports gamble. It’s just important to do so responsibly before it becomes a major public health epidemic.

Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash

Originally published on Invisible Illness on April 4, 2021.

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Believer, Baltimore City IEP Chair, and 2:39 marathon runner. Diehard fan of "The Wire"

Baltimore, MD

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