Will sports play promote addiction? you can bet on it

Ben Affleck, the avid movie star and gamer who has battled alcohol addiction, is one of the sports game’s most visible pitchmen. He is the focus of a TV commercial for the WynnBET mobile betting app. “We all want to win,” exclaims Affleck. “Let’s win together!

Aaron Paul, the actor who only played a drug addict in “Breaking Bad” and who himself refused to use hard drugs after seeing his girlfriend devoured by addiction, is a spokesperson for Bet365 , a sports betting application. It has over 63 million users worldwide and offers newcomers $ 500 credit to join. “You must be wondering why I am not a member of the world’s favorite bookmaker? Paul asks in an ad.

Those who browse these two apps are presented with the mainstays of sports betting – betting on cash lines, touchdowns, parlays, fight results, total number of hits and other outcomes. At the bottom of the screen is this quick tip: “If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and needs help, call 1-800 GAMBLER.” “

Call me old-fashioned, but as sports betting experiences pandemic-fueled expansion, shouldn’t we be more worried about the possibility of an increase in gambling disorders? And isn’t it shocking that people who should know better are pushing this with enthusiasm?

A reminder: for most players, betting is a hobby. Based on historical data, only about 1% of adults in the United States have a serious problem such as problem gambling. About 2% to 3% of adults have less serious problems; they are not drug addicts, but gambling causes them financial and social distress. Most people bet for fun.

The problem is, these small percentages represent 6 to 8 million people. And most academic and clinical studies of gambling disorders in the United States were undertaken when legal sports gambling was restricted to Nevada and backroom betting with bookmakers was not digital. The boom in sports gaming that began three years ago after the United States Supreme Court overturned Nevada’s monopoly, along with the accessibility offered by mobile devices and apps, means that a much larger share important and younger Americans is now under threat. It will take time for researchers to become familiar with today’s world of sports betting and the problems that can be encountered on individuals and communities.

“We have been engaged in a massive cultural experiment with gambling, and we are delivering gambling to the United States in a way that is unprecedented in the world,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, a group research and advocacy. “No one, at least from an addiction perspective, has been able to determine what the impact will be on problem gambling. “

“Groups like ours are urged to examine the potentially negative impacts of new tools and technologies without having access to internal data and product information of private companies,” he added, while pointing out regulatory gaps. “State gaming commissions are on the verge of being captive in the industry. They rely on the industry and do not understand some of the new technologies.

When big business took over the gambling industry decades ago, they were more disciplined than their organized crime predecessors in analyzing which forms of betting were the most profitable and most magnetic. Slot machines quickly replaced table games in the center of casino floors. The wealth of data that such machines could collect on what players liked helped casinos make their games more lucrative and potentially more addicting. Apps and other digital gaming offerings are even more data-centric than slots and can be fine-tuned to take advantage of features that make gambling compulsive, such as faster pace of play, stimulation of sensory feedback and frequent near misses.

Irish gambling company Flutter Entertainment doubled its revenue last year, thanks to several of its brands, but most importantly FanDuel, one of the most popular sports betting apps in the United States. Flutter also bought Sky Bet from Rupert Murdoch’s media company last year, and it is now the UK’s most popular gaming app.

The New York Times recently reported that Sky Bet uses its app’s data profiling software to examine a compulsive gambler’s betting history and favorite sports with such precision that they could essentially track and track them down. hang on – even when he was trying to stop. “They took his addiction and turned it into code,” a lawyer representing the player told The Times. Sky Bet told The Times it does not target vulnerable players and takes “the responsibilities of safer gambling incredibly seriously.”

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