Is Online Sports Betting Dangerous?


Editor’s note: In this Future View, students discuss sports betting. Next week we’ll ask, “A recent survey asked how young Americans felt about defending their country. With our eyes set on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, would you stay and fight for your country if attacked in a similar way? Or would you leave?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before April 5. The best responses will be published that night.

According to the National Center for Responsible Gaming, approximately 1% of adults in the U.S. has a severe gambling problem. This is low compared with the 6% to 9% of young people and young adults who experience problems related to gambling.

This addiction is growing among young people at an alarming rate. If we normalize gambling, we are only exposing the most vulnerable—those who don’t understand it is a problem—until it’s too late.

A college should be a safe space for students, not a place where they’re exposed to an activity that has been proven to be highly addictive. Television networks should restrict the times where they’re exposing young, impressionable audiences to gambling and make sure talk of it is eliminated during those times.

—Malize Evans, Harvard University, marketing

Stock Trading is Similar to Sports Betting

Sports betting is not different from any other risk-based financial market. The stock exchange is one such example. While owning stock is better defined as an investment—a word I certainly wouldn’t use to describe sports betting—in the extreme, trading stock has similar characteristics to gambling.

The relevant example is day trading: Most individual day traders end up losing money or making no gains over the broad market. Of course, financial analysts, bankers and hedge-fund brokers will denounce that statement, claiming there is a science behind making gains in the stock market via trades. They would argue they study market conditions and other metrics to make buys. And they would be right, but a sports fan can make a similar argument about knowing a player’s or team’s statistics. In fact, some national teams hire economists and statisticians to advise them on trading players to increase their probability of winning national titles.

Concern over the mainstreaming of sports gambling and its effects on societal well-being should be no more of a concern than trading stocks or buying cryptocurrencies. There are television stations devoted to covering market information to inform investors in the stock market. There is no reason for sports channels or colleges to resist the trend of sports betting as a new market emerges. Let the fans bet.

—Kyle Lynaugh, University of Chicago, public policy

It’s Madness to Encourage Gambling

Gambling sites are now popping up promising safe and legal betting methods. Is this the direction that we want our sports culture to follow? And for that matter, is this the direction that we as a society want to follow? Sports at the professional and collegiate level provide an excellent form of entertainment as well as an emotional outlet for many across the world.

But sports are not without their vices—one of which has proved to be gambling. With the current NCAA basketball tournament nearing its end, part of the “madness” is the encouragement of sports gambling. For a student-athlete, sports are a way to continue a passion, get an education, and in some cases work toward a career. The rising popularity of sports gambling puts these athletes in danger of throwing it all away. When players and coaches get involved in sports betting in any capacity, it poses the risk of fixed games, point shaving and other misconduct. The Chicago White Sox had a scandal in which eight players were banned from the league for allegedly fixing the 1919 World Series.

In many cases the mainstreaming of sports betting seems innocent, but it is creating a fine line between entertainment and a dangerous system.

—Alexandra Luehrman, Quinnipiac University, law in society

A Time-Honored Tradition

Sports betting is becoming mainstream only in the sense that a once illegal market is now becoming legal. People were gambling during the Greek Olympics, and there is little reason to expect that we will stop anytime soon. Gambling will happen whether or not governments allow it—and whether the media covers it. The relevant question is whether clearer rules and better information are problems—and the answer is clearly no.

Legalizing sports betting enforces contracts, reduces industry corruption, and raises tax revenue for our heavily indebted governments. Social condemnation of gambling only makes inexperienced bettors more vulnerable to industry professionals and embarrasses those with gambling addictions into not asking for help. Our best course of action as a society is to throw open the doors and let people have fun.

—Sarah Eckhardt, University of Wisconsin, economics

Making America Like Sin City

Failure to resist the wave of popular gambling is a recipe for a host of social ills we are poorly prepared to handle. Growing up in Las Vegas, I witnessed the zombified masses crowding slot machines and poker tables.

These aren’t happy people enjoying a hobby, they are addicts on an endless search that tears families apart and ruins financial futures. It isn’t worth it.

There are no social goods to be found in promoting this practice, but there are a host of social ills. Leave gambling in the shadows where the interested can seek it out, but keep it out of the mainstream where the unsuspecting might be lured in.

—Sam Cox, Columbia University, dentistry

Click here to submit a response to next week’s Future View.

Wonder Land: State legalizations of gambling and marijuana prove that the goal of governments today is mainly to take, rather than help. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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