Sports Gambling Here to Stay; It's a Bet There Will Be Problems

Gambling is considered one of the oldest vices in the world. Some would say that’s too harsh a description when it comes to wagering on sports. After all, putting a bet down on an outcome can be fun and even a socially stimulating competition among friends. It can make the game more engaging. There are those who will say it’s more like a hobby, really, than some moral failing. Stephen Marche of the Atlantic in a recent analysis describes sports betting as “one of the defining pleasures of our time … Once there was Las Vegas; now there’s a Las Vegas in every phone.” And who’s to argue. According to an MSN report, prior to the kickoff of the 2022 Super Bowl, the American Gaming Association announced it anticipated that “a whopping 50.4 million Americans” were expected to place some kind of wager related to the event.”

A FOX Business report points out that “last year’s Super Bowl saw almost $8 billion worth of wagers.” That number was expected to jump to an estimated $16 billion on last Sunday’s game. Even as I write this, beyond being record-setting, experts are unsure what the final tally will be. According to analysts at PlayUSA, a popular play-branded site in the Catena Media network, a “drastically higher” tally can be expected “when adding illegal wagers made through offshore sportsbooks, bets paced with a local bookie, or in a pool or squares contest.” Eric Ramsey, lead analyst for Catena Media, foresees “The 2023 Super Bowl could draw more bets than any other game in the history of US sports.”

Predicted Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, a trade group for the gambling industry, “One in five Americans are going to bet on the Super Bowl.” As he explains to FOX Business reporter Chantz Martin, just five years ago Nevada was the only place you could bet on sports legally. “Because of a ruling from the Supreme Court which said that Nevada shouldn’t have a monopoly on that, we now have had 37 states that have legalized sports … It’s a testament to the progress we’re making.” It should also be noted that technology is also greatly in play with today’s bettors. The 2022 Super Bowl represented the first opportunity where fans were legally able to bet using their phones.

“The Super Bowl always presents the opportunity for exotic bets that otherwise are not commonly wagered on throughout the rest of the year,” writes Martin. There certainly appears to have been a veritable plethora of opportunities to bet not only on events in every quarter or individual players but on things like “the length of the national anthem or the color of the Gatorade poured on the coach — these kind of unique prop bets really for the most part are limited to the Super Bowl,” says Miller. He also cautions that “no one should ever believe they are going to make a living or a second job placing wagers on sporting events.”

Miller goes on to say that “when enjoyed in moderation and when spending limits are put in place, sports wagering gambling can be a fun and exciting way to consume a game. However, it is important that players are aware of the importance of responsible gambling.”

Which leads me to a point of concern. In New Jersey, for example, sports betting (both online and in person) has been legal since June 2018. According to Lia Nower, a professor and director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University, a forthcoming statewide study on gambling prevalence suggests that the fastest-growing group of sports bettors in New Jersey are young adults ages 21 to 24. “Most have placed in-game bets … and about 19% spent half of their money betting during games, when emotions and impulsive spending are highest,” she writes in a post on

“Although regulators require operators to allow bettors to set limits — on losses, deposits or time spent gambling — only about 1% of young bettors use any of the safeguards, less than any other age group,” she adds.

It seems reasonable to believe that a rise in access to legal gambling could inevitably lead to a rise in gambling addicts. It also stands to reason that young people, still settling into adulthood, present a vulnerable population. “The younger that people start gambling, the more activities they bet on. And the more frequently they bet, the more likely they are to develop serious gambling problems,” says Nower.

“Illinois grapples with rise in sports gambling problems as bets hit $1 billion a month,” says the headline of a recent story by Jake Sheridan of the Chicago Tribune. “Bets on the big game are fun entertainment for many, but the growing stakes go beyond money: Three years into legalization, sports gambling problems are also on the rise,” he reports.

“And it’s got to happen fast, because we are going to have a tsunami of people who need understanding, care, and treatment,” says Dr. T. Celeste Napier, director of Rush Medical’s Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction. “We’re not going to be prepared for it,” adds Dr. T. Celeste Napier, director of Rush Medical’s Center for Compulsive Behavior and Addiction.

“An estimated 383,000 Illinoisians have a gambling problem,” writes Sheridan. “An additional 761,000 are estimated to be at risk of developing one, according to a study published in 2022 by the Illinois Department of Human Services.”

“Our hearts and minds are shaped not only by reason but also by our habits, which are just as often inexplicably self-destructive as they are reasonable,” writes Matthew Loftus of the Atlantic. He believes that this idea that anyone who falls into gambling addiction has only themselves to blame “has allowed state lawmakers to ignore arguments that more access to gambling might make it easier for people to lose control.”

Casey Clark, the senior vice president at the American Gaming Association, in a CNN interview points out that “the gambling industry and sports betting operators work with regulators, professional sports leagues, media companies and advocates to set standards, provide gambling education for consumers and fund recovery efforts for people seeking treatment.”

Nower states that “gambling treatment services vary by state, from specially trained, culturally competent counselors in a few states to a total lack of services in others. Most children and teens receive no education in schools about problem gambling as they do for drugs and alcohol … Nationally, there are no federal policies, prohibitions or federally funded research or prevention programs, despite all the revenue generated by taxes on gambling winnings.”