Risks of Sports Gambling


Photo courtesy Uggs Canada Ugg

Sports Betting

Throughout the history of every major sporting league, people have placed bets on their favorite teams, players, and games. In recent years, the creation of online sports betting has greatly increased the public accessibility to betting organizations. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that prohibited sports gambling in a majority of states. Since then, 45% of the sports gambling industry has become based on online platforms. With this, parents have become concerned that children could easily be drawn into a destructive cycle of gambling.

According to the Mayo Clinic, gambling usually starts as “fun and harmless”. However, “the problem with gambling is the subtle way in which it can take over [one’s] behavior and sensibility”. Studies have shown gambling has been proven to create a marked increase in dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced by the human body which triggers feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. While this may seem harmless,the dopamine rushes that gamblers experience help draw a connection in their minds between happiness and gambling and thus will encourage a happy-go-lucky attitude and less frugal betting.. The few times that a gambler wins are more memorable than the dozen losses they have. Especially when there are several big losses in a row, it is easy to think that the next big win is right around the corner, and that every loss can be made up for.

Unlike people who gamble casually, people who are addicted to gambling do not, “ stop when losing or set a limit on how much they’re willing to lose. “(Mayo Clinic). This incapacity to stop can lead people to quickly blow through massive amounts of money. Losing money also can cause compulsive gamblers to feel compelled to make up the money with another bet. When the money runs out, people can turn to theft or fraud to continue gambling.

Online gambling can be especially harmful since it “offers more convenience and privacy, [and]…higher rates of gambling problems” (Kindbridge). Since online gambling is constantly available, people can bet on individual plays inside games, quickly changing their bets based on how the game is playing out. This can draw people even further into gambling, making each bet play out more quickly, increasing the rate of wins and losses, and drawing people even further into gambling addiction.

In addition, online sports betting could also affect professional sports in athlete performance. In a European study, “57% of professional athletes had engaged in sports betting over the previous year”(Kindbridge). In previous sports scandals such as the Black Sox, athletes purposely played ineffectively so that they could cash in on bets. With online gambling websites, the rate of sports betting among professional athletes could make these events reappear. 

Online sports betting can cause people to become drawn into the game, forgetting to show restraint and continuously playing off a dopamine rush. However, there are other ways to be involved in sports. Participating in school or club sports can also get people involved. Watching the game or trying to predict the outcome of a game without betting can also help raise engagement.