Sports gambling has suddenly become the thing to do, it appears, especially if you gauge sports gambling interest by the number of advertisements we are being bombarded with in this moment. Sports gambling ads regularly run on TV, are plastered on community billboards, and banner ads are everywhere on social media. Seemingly overnight, we went from “gambling is bad” to “how did we ever enjoy sports before we were allowed to bet?” Quite the paradigm shift, to be sure, but should we have better guard rails up as a society with so many people vulnerable to the allure of gambling, yet not fiscally equipped to absorb the big losses that inevitably follow?
The nuts & bolts of sports gambling
Winning a sports wager can certainly be an adrenaline rush, but what happens when you lose? Not only does losing not feel good, losing sport bets can lead to devastating financial consequences, marital and family troubles, substance abuse, and career difficulties. And, in comparison to other life ventures where you have an impact on the outcome (i.e. playing darts against a friend), sports gambling provides no control whatsoever as the games are ultimately decided by the players on the field — not you. So even the smartest of sports gamblers can never control for the variables that impact the outcome of a game, including player injuries, weather conditions, and even coaching decisions. The big takeaway? That while gambling may be exciting, your impact on winning and losing is completely left to chance.
Ironically, there is always a winner when it comes to sports gambling and that is the house, or the business that takes your bets. The house sets the point spread, and handles bets from both sides of the game. When a game is played some betters win, some betters lose, but the house always wins. Sports gambling, therefore, is only set up for the house to win — not you.
Most sports betters know that the house always wins, but they still gamble with the hopes of being a winner themselves. For those lucky winners, the next challenge they face is walking away with money in their pocket — but how many times does that really happen? Put another way, do we really think that the very people lured into sports gambling because of the rush just walk away with their earnings after a win when there are more games to bet? Of course not. And herein is another problem: When gambling, how do you walk away on top with the temptation to continue gambling barking in your ear?
Who is most vulnerable?
It’s one thing for a wealthy person to lose a few dollars a month placing responsible, low-dollar bets on their favorite team, but how many sports gamblers fit that profile? While we may never know the specifics when it comes to personality profiles and related job income from people who regularly bet on sports, we can safely assume that a good number of people who bet regularly teeter on devastating outcomes that could dramatically alter their lives. What about all the people living week-to-week, struggling to keep up with rent, car payments, and grocery store bills, but now handcuffed with a sports bet loss that leaves them unable to keep up? As they miss payments and see their credit score plummet, problems at home usually follow, and often alcohol and other drugs are used to counter the stress incurred from betting losses. These are the things they don’t tell you on the commercials or bus stop ads, but these are also the things that regularly happen when it comes to sports gambling.
Even though temptations to gamble lurk by means of omnipresent advertising around every corner, it is important to think through risky decisions in life. For most people, burning through hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars through sports betting can quickly lead to unforeseen, negative consequences. Remember, while the advertisements make it sound fun and exciting, losing hard earned money by means of sports gambling can have a very negative impact on the quality of your life.