Legalized Sports Betting Surge Sparks Concerns Over Young Men's Mental Health

Legalized Sports Betting Surge Sparks Concerns Over Young Men's Mental Health
Cover Image Source: The Georgia Bulldogs vs. the TCU Horned Frogs | Photo by Jamie Schwaberow | Getty Images

The recent expansion of legalized sports betting across 36 states has sparked a significant surge in the gambling industry. However, experts are raising concerns about its impact on the mental health of young men. Easy access to online betting, primarily through sportsbooks offering enticing incentives like credits and first-bet loss forgiveness, is particularly appealing to the Gen Z demographic.


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A 2023 report from Rutgers University revealed that a third of bettors aged 18 to 24 exclusively engage in online wagering, a statistic five times higher than in 2017 and surpassing other age groups.

Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University School of Social Work, highlighted the alarming consequences of mobile gambling, stating, "You can be gambling away your house on your mobile phone sitting at the dinner table, and not a single person will know until the devastation of your whole family is complete."

Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Karolina Grabowska

Experts warn that mobile gambling is contributing to potential mental health crises in young men. According to Nower, the earlier individuals start gambling and the more varied their gambling activities, the higher the likelihood of developing gambling-related and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

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The Rutgers report also indicated that younger men aged 18 to 44 are most susceptible to high-risk problem gambling, with 19% of those aged 18 to 24 classified as high-risk. Moreover, individuals aged 18 to 20 are significantly more prone to chasing losses and exceeding their financial limits.

Senior citizens are being targetted the most in bank and pig butchering scams. Image Source: Burst|Photo by Jp Valery
Image Source: Burst | Photo by Jp Valery

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The College Football Playoff games have set new records in sports betting, indicating the escalating popularity of gambling, particularly among young people. "The volume level is going to be cranked up probably like we’ve never seen it before," said Jay Kornegay, sportsbook director for Westgate's Las Vegas resort.

Psychologist James Whelan from the University of Memphis explained that gambling triggers a surge in "happy hormone" levels, akin to other addictive substances like drugs and alcohol. "And when you gamble, your brain secretes more dopamine than when you do any of those other things," he said.

Gambling | Getty Images | Photo by Lars Baron
Image Source: Gambling | Getty Images | Photo by Lars Baron

It is important to note that the under-25 population is particularly vulnerable to gambling addiction due to their still-developing brains. "The sportsbooks and the commercials and the leagues themselves are making it look so cool to gamble and risk your money," he added.

According to Bill Miller, president of the gambling industry's chief trade group, the American Gaming Association, the illegal gambling industry fails to identify and flag individuals exhibiting problematic gambling behaviors, unlike the regulated sector.

Furthermore, there's a rush toward legalization without adequate consideration of the potential mental health ramifications. Gambling addiction often manifests subtly, lacking the obvious signs seen in other addictive behaviors like drinking or smoking disorders. "Gambling addiction has no tell," Nower added.


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