Sports betting has become increasingly popular in the United States, particularly in the last few years, and betting options have expanded rapidly. Depending on federal, state, or local laws, participants can bet online, through mobile apps, or at in-person locations.
Many fans engage in sports betting for casual fun. They can limit the amount they wager, or the number of times they participate in betting. But when there are more opportunities to gamble, it also creates a greater risk of developing a serious gambling problem.
Legality of sports betting
Sports betting could be made legal in any state, ever since New Jersey won a Supreme Court case in May 2018. However, not all states have permitted full-scale sports betting. The American Gaming Association (AGA) recently released an interactive map with state-level detail on the types of sports betting allowed.
Federal lawmakers are also considering new rules for sports betting. Since early 2017, there has been an increase in the number of state and federal proposals to expand sports betting. In late 2018, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and now-retired Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) co-introduced comprehensive sports betting legislation. The House Judiciary Committee held a formal hearing on the topic the same year.
Does sports gambling increase addiction risk?
Many U.S. states have reported problems associated with gambling after legalizing or expanding the activity. In Arizona, for example, addiction treatment facilities are gearing up for increased demand for treatment services after the state legalized online sports betting this year. Experts note that making gambling more accessible could also make it easier to develop an addiction to it.
Research has shown that addictive behaviors, such as problem drinking, have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. When it comes to gambling in particular, the research is less clear. However, U.K. research suggests that online gambling in particular increased during the mandated lockdowns.
Professional sports raising awareness of problem gambling
The National Football League (NFL) in October 2021 launched a public awareness program to help educate sports fans on responsible betting. The campaign encourages sports betting participants to create a game plan, including a particular budget, and strictly follow it. The campaign also warns fans to use only licensed, regulated operators, and ask for help if they find themselves struggling with their gambling.
The NFL is also expanding its existing partnership with the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). This agreement will help the NCPG launch a national grant program to fund gambling addiction services and prevention programs, as well as the national problem gambling Helpline system. This partnership includes the development of a new website, ResponsiblePlay.org.
Behavioral health organizations that serve clients with substance misuse disorder may want to look at sports betting rules in their state or localities, and whether there are any changes on the horizon. Where sports betting is widely permitted, more people may start to seek addiction treatment. This also gives providers an opportunity to promote awareness of problem gambling and treatment options.
As sports betting expands, addiction treatment providers could see greater demand for their services. Make sure your practice’s software can keep up.
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