Thursday, June 13, 2024

Gambling is everywhere now. When does that become a problem?

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Gambling trends have exploded periodically throughout history, but its latest peak may be now, in the period following the 2018 Supreme Court decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). The federal law barred most states from authorizing gambling on competitive sporting events. 

Seemingly overnight, advertisements for sports betting companies became unavoidable. Viewers can now expect to see them not only in sports broadcasts, but also other programming, and any place ads are found online. By the five year anniversary of the decision, Americans had bet over $220 billion on sports, and 2023 was also the third-straight year commercial betting revenue broke records. Today, 38 states, including D.C., allow sports betting in some shape or form.

With an explosion in sports betting, high profile cases have hit the headlines. Last week, the NBA banned Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter for life after an internal investigation found he had bet on basketball games. Last month, the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers abruptly fired the star player Shohei Ohtani’s translator for gambling; U.S. officials have accused the translator of stealing more than $16 million to fund an illegal sports gambling habit. Celebrated broadcaster Craig Carton returned to the air after jail time—and has started a show discussing the realities of problem gambling.

Once considered to be a symbol of immorality, gambling has become significantly less stigmatized over the last decades, says Jeff Derevensky, director of McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-risk Behaviours. “They turned gambling from sin and vice into a socially acceptable recreational form of entertainment,” he says. “As a result of that social acceptability, you don’t have to hide.” 

Gambling is more accessible than ever. This makes it easier for individuals, including youth who have difficulty setting and maintaining limits, to fall into severe addiction. Since 2018, there have been more high-profile reports of teens falling into severe gambling addiction, and experts have reportedly noticed a number of adolescents migrating to gambling through the medium of video games, likely because they satisfy similar psychological needs.  

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