Consequences You Can Bet On

The Dangers of Sports Betting

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The Super Bowl is arguably the biggest sports betting event all year

Max Williams, Staff Writer

Like all addictions, gambling starts out small, and only grows with time. Further aided by the easy accessibility of the internet, underage gambling— and more particularly underage sports betting—has become a serious problem amongst youth in the state of Missouri. With Super Bowl LVI taking place, and the Lombardi Trophy being raised last night, millions of Americans either lost it all or cashed in big.

NPR.org reported that 17.6 million people were expected to bet on the big match between the Los AngelesRams and the Cincinnati Bengals. Not only can one bet on the winner by sinking cash into the money line, but also the total amount of points scored by both teams, the length of the national anthem, the coin toss at the start of the game, the player who will score the first touchdown, and just about anything that a person can possibly think of. If there is something left up to chance in the Super Bowl, there is a bet to be placed, all with the tap of a single button. Oftentimes the biggest losers are the ones with such little knowledge of just exactly what they are putting on the line or the consequences of their actions— teenagers..

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, a teens brain is not completely developed until 25 years old. Thanks to the fact that a smartphone is handed to almost each and every underage sports fanatic on the planet, individuals and corporations see the perfect opportunity to make a quick fortune off of the poor and illicit decisions of curious youth. This great privilege of technology,  preys on the inner temptations, curiosity, and naivety of those who have not yet reached their peak stage of development.

There are plenty of ways that underage teens can get into the betting world because it usually only takes one or two contacts. It seems like mainstream sports betting apps like Fanduel or Draftkings advertise during almost every commercial break across all televised sports nowadays, and the targeted audience clearly does not begin with those over 21 years of age. Although the companies claim to take all precautions necessary, these apps can still be easily accessed by using the account of an older sibling or close friend. By simply betting on another person’s account, one can easily get past the app’s security measures.

For people living in states where all sports betting is illegal, like Missouri, there are still people who find a way. An alternative route involves getting in touch with a person—the bookie—who runs a website—the book—to place bets on games through an illegal third party. The bottom line is that geographical state borders, age restrictions, and laws can all be bypassed thanks to the misuse of technology and the digital world.

After gaining access to a mainstream sports betting app or getting in touch with a bookie, a person can begin betting on games ranging from the African Cup of Nations to the Super Bowl, with everything in between. There is usually a minimum dollar amount that one has to put down in order to make a bet, but there is still the option to make relatively small bets on games. By making a parlay, one can string together multiple smaller bets as one, decreasing the odds, and subsequently creating the possibility of a higher payout. Although one or two bets may seem harmless and fun, this mentality eventually leads to the biggest losses and can easily result in a gambling addiction.

As many have learned the hard way, no bet is ever truly “a lock” or a guarantee. According to psychcentral.com, there are four essential stages to a compulsive gambling addiction beginning with winning.  However, a small win here or there can be the driving force in someone’s gambling addiction. All it takes is a bit of luck, and suddenly the path to despair opens up. Whether the success is great or small, the person begins to attribute gambling with a skill of theirs, as if betting is something that they are good at. Suddenly they begin to set aside more hard earned money and time to focus on gambling and try to replicate the feeling that they get when a bet “hits”.

The second stage is where the situation begins to decline. Known as the losing stage, the gambler begins to inevitably stray away from their winning ways. After losing bets, they quickly attempt to make it back by placing more, oblivious to the fact that they are digging an even deeper hole for themselves. In addition to this, they may exhibit signs that they have a gambling addiction, such as skipping important events or lying to others.

Following the second stage is the desperation stage. It is here that the underlying problems seen before begin to escalate. The individual may begin to face serious consequences such as the loss of a job, problems within relationships, or even trouble with the law. Despite this, they continue to gamble and may even steal or take desperate measures in order to further fund their gambling endeavors.

Finally, the hopeless faze occurs, and the person sinks into a state that they believe to be an all time low. Having lost so much already, the gambler may contemplate suicide or begin to abuse substances like drugs or alcohol. Although some gamblers are stopped before they reach this point, those stuck in the fourth stage of a compulsive gambling addiction require serious help.

For me, I watched as one of my closest friends followed similar stages to those depicted by psychcentral.com. It started off with small wins on soccer or basketball games, which were sports that he had followed closely from a young age. At first, you could see his excitement after winning small bets that he claimed were just for fun, and he would jokingly brag about his minuscule earnings. Yet with his confidence he began taking on more bets, dabbling in sports he was unfamiliar with and putting money on any game that he could. At this time he was working multiple jobs, giving him a false sense of how much income that he was able to spend. Soon he would have over $100 in play on a daily basis, and he began to spend more money on gambling than other hobbies. His losses grew so much, that at his lowest point he was forced to sell multiple pairs of his most expensive shoes that he collected. Thankfully it was at this point that he gave up gambling for good.

Although he did not want his name to be disclosed, his story can serve as a reminder of the dangers of gambling and a deterrent for anyone, underage or not, who is contemplating betting on a sporting event. Although sports betting is far from the only form of gambling, it can lead to a life of despair, especially if it begins before the age of 21.