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Sports Betting & Online Gambling: The Odds are Against Us

The increase in sports betting and online gambling brings increased risks of addiction, with higher risks for young adults.

Casinos and gambling are not an old concept. Many of us have been to a casino at least once in our lives, whether it be for a concert, restaurant, shopping, or to try our luck at the slots or a game table.

In recent years, a new form of gambling has entered the arena - sports betting and online casinos. Sports betting, or placing wagers on the outcome of a sports event, has gained popularity since the Supreme Court removed the ban of sports betting in 2018. Since then, more than 30 states have followed suit, and sports betting is now more accessible than ever.

Many firms that offer sports betting also give users the opportunity to enter a virtual, online casino, where games like roulette, slots, and black jack can be played right on your cell phone. Gambling can now be done anywhere, anytime.

And just like all new technology, the popularity of online sports betting and casinos has skyrocketed; “Casinos and mobile gaming apps rang up a record $54.93 billion in revenue during the first 11 months of 2022, a 13.5 percent increase against the same period the previous year, says the American Gaming Association.”

With more accessibility and higher usage comes an increased risk for users to develop gambling disorders. Technology has also made it extremely easy for a new demographic to join the game– high school and college students.

Increase in gambling among teens and college students

While the legal age to gamble is between 18-21, depending on the state, research shows that high school and college students are still finding ways to gamble with little effort. In Connecticut you must be at least 21 years old to participate in online or in-person casino gaming or sports wagering and 18 years old to participate in fantasy contests, purchase a lottery ticket, or play keno.

Surveys show that 60%- 80% of high school students have gambled in the past year for money.

Many kids gamble as an escape from reality, a way to relieve stress, or because of boredom.

Young adults are also in a unique spot when it comes to their relationship with technology. They have grown up almost entirely with access to the internet and social media, and are extremely comfortable using it. The effects of the pandemic and isolation from their peers has made online gambling appealing to them as well, as an easy, socially-distanced form of entertainment.

Many people think gambling is risk-free

One of the reasons gambling at a young age is so dangerous is because kids' brains aren’t fully developed, making them more susceptible to developing a gambling addiction. They do not have the same capacity to process loss and risk the same way as adults, and they do not fully understand the extent of the risks they take.

College aged students are also extremely vulnerable when it comes to online sports betting because they think they know sports, and are very comfortable using their phones.

The sad truth is that gambling for teens is the farthest thing from risk-free. Gambling as a teen poses many risks:

  • Can be damaging their credit score before they are able to build it up

  • Raises legal issues, as gambling is illegal for minors

  • In all forms, gambling can be addictive and teens can develop a gambling disorder very easily

Increase in advertising to young people

You might be asking yourself, how are these young people learning about online gambling? A growing concern is the amount of advertisements they are exposed to.

Sports betting companies such as PointsBet, FanDuel, and DraftKings use social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to reach large audiences, made up of many young people. They use pop culture and brand ambassadors to make their messages relatable and desirable.

Photo Source: Draft Kings Facebook Page

Many colleges, including Michigan State University, Louisiana State University, University of Maryland, University of Denver, and University of Colorado, are forming partnerships and sponsorships with online gambling platforms, allowing advertisements at college events and some even making money using a university promo code.

It is evident that most advertisements shown at college campuses have a clear intention of gaining new customers.

The ads aren’t limited to college campuses. Kids are exposed to advertisements during almost all sporting events, including the Superbowl. It’s almost impossible for a child to enjoy a sports game without seeing at least one advertisement for online betting and gambling. Even a drive up I-95 will expose children to countless billboards and bus ads.

Risk for addiction

While young people are certainly more susceptible to developing an addiction, it is possible for anyone of any age to develop a gambling addiction. In fact, 6% of gamblers develop a gambling disorder.

Neuroscientists have shown that the part of the brain that is stimulated by financial rewards is the same part that is stimulated by cocaine use, the dopamine system. This makes developing an addiction far too easy.

With more access to gambling comes more risks. Surveys show between 2018 - 2021, there was a 30% increase in gambling disorders nationwide, with the largest increase among young male online gamblers.

Unfortunately, gambling disorders can also lead to developing other mental health disorders. Research shows that people with gambling disorders have a higher risk of substance misuse , depression, and suicidal behavior. In fact, problem gambling has the highest rate of suicide out of any form of addiction. 77% of people with a gambling disorder have had thoughts of suicide, and 1 in 5 people with a gambling addiction have attempted suicide.

Signs of problem gambling

If you believe someone you love may be developing a gambling disorder, look for these signs:

  • They are consumed with planning and making time for gambling

  • They lose interest in other activities or hobbies

  • They are chasing money they have lost

  • They use gambling to hide from their problems, or as an escape from other stressors

  • Their performance in school/work is dropping, or they are losing other jobs/ opportunities

  • They are asking for money or for you to bail them out of debts

Get help

If you are struggling with a gambling problem, know that help is available . A good first step is reaching out to a mental health professional who can help suggest treatment options and resources.

You can find more information about help and resources at, or by calling 1-888-789-7777 for a confidential chat, available 24/7. Find additional resources on our website and in our resource guides.

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