Is Risky Sports Betting More About The Gambler Than The Wagers?

June 22, 2023
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In and of itself, sports betting does not increase addiction but those who wager on sports are at a higher risk of developing gambling problems, according to Joshua Grubbs, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico.

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In and of itself, sports betting does not increase addiction but those who wager on sports are at a higher risk of developing gambling problems, according to Joshua Grubbs, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico.

“It’s not the activity, it’s the gambler,” Grubbs said during an academic presentation on May 24 at the International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, sponsored by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“The people who are engaging in sports gambling are engaging in a broader pattern, a broader structure of behaviors that are risky.”

For example, gamblers who wager on sports are more likely to smoke tobacco or cannabis, drink alcohol and abuse prescription drugs, Grubbs said.

Sports gamblers also tend to be younger men who are more educated and have more disposable income than those who do not wager on sporting events, he said.

Grubbs, who previously taught psychology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, is helping lead a multi-year research project on problem gambling.

Funding for the research is coming primarily from the International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG), an independent research body initially created by members of the American Gaming Association (AGA) and formerly known as the National Center for Responsible Gambling.

Another survey released in April by Opinion Research and financed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), agreed with ICRG’s conclusion that higher-risk gamblers were more likely to wager on a larger number and broader variety of sporting events.

Meanwhile, the National Football League (NFL) took the unusual step on Tuesday (June 20) of scheduling a media availability to discuss the league’s new rules on sports betting after recent suspensions.

“Sports gambling has a great deal more presence in people’s lives than it did just a few short years ago,” Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications, told reporters.

The NFL has “to be thoughtful and careful and scrutinize how we share information and educate people around the rules that govern it.”

John Holden, an associate professor of business at Oklahoma State University, is not convinced the NFL’s new rules will be effective.

“The reality is that NFL players are inundated with rules; take a look at the fines for uniform violations,” Holden said.

“There is no way these guys are sitting at home reading the rulebook.”

Some critics are even arguing the leagues and sportsbooks were better off before they began forming partnerships after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a federal sports-betting ban on May 14, 2018.

But resurrecting a firewall between the leagues and sportsbooks is no longer feasible because of all the money both businesses are making off sports betting, according to Holden.

“Leagues face a choice – Get on board or get left behind,” he said.

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