College athletics is a billion dollar industry. Until recently, there was one cash cow that couldn’t be used legally: sports betting. That landscape is changing.
In 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning sports betting. Now, according to the US Gaming Commission, 36 states plus Washington, DC, have legalized sports betting, while five others are involved in “active legislation”. The online gambling industry is a fast-growing business, projected to be worth more than $145 billion by 2030, and sports betting is a big reason why, according to research from Custom Market Insights.
Large universities, with tens of thousands of students and potentially millions of fans, have become a particularly attractive market for sports betting companies, especially in an age of increased use of digital technology. The appeal is mutual, as colleges see an opportunity to rake in millions of dollars and make up for lost revenue from the COVID-19 pandemic by partnering with sports gambling companies.
While many students may see ways for diversion and financial gain, experts agree that there are associated risks that students and parents should consider.
At least eight universities have contracts with sports gambling companies, and that number is expected to continue to grow, according to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, a national advocacy organization. Additionally, The New York Times reported, “at least a dozen athletic departments and booster clubs have signed deals with brick-and-mortar casinos.”
These partnerships allow sports betting companies to advertise on campus, at sports facilities and, in some cases, directly to student mailboxes. At Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge, which signed a deal with Caesars Sportsbook in 2021, some students received an email inviting them to “place their first bet (and claim their first bonus),” including students who were younger of the legal betting age in Louisiana. 21, the Times reported.
Other schools that signed the partnership agreements reportedly used similar enticing language to encourage students to download the sports betting app. Questions have been raised about the ethics of these partnerships, as some feel they don’t fit the mission of higher education and instead prey on vulnerable populations and provide another avenue for students to be exposed to potentially addictive behavior.
“It’s so disgusting on every level,” says John Delony, a mental health and wellness author, speaker, and podcast host. “There’s literally nothing good that comes out of this, other than schools finding another way to get money. Schools have absolutely failed in the most important mission they have, which is to educate students and keep them safe.”
As more schools look to partner with sports gambling companies and more students are exposed to it, here are some things to know.
Higher risk for students
These partnerships create an additional risk for problem gambling among students, Whyte says. Although most states prohibit casino gambling for those under 21, the age limits for online gambling vary. According to the nonprofit International Center for Responsible Gambling, about 6% of American college students say they have a serious gambling problem.
Experts say a big concern is that students often don’t have much money to begin with, and preoccupation with gambling can exacerbate those problems.
Some students may see sports betting as a way to pay for college, make money, or build a career or side hustle, but those outcomes are unlikely, says Delony, who was previously chief student affairs officer at Belmont University in Tennessee and dean of students at the Law School. faculty of Texas Tech University. Instead, he says, students often fall deeper into debt and have trouble paying bills or other necessities.
While Delony says gambling can be a form of entertainment, people need to know when to stop. Setting those boundaries can be especially difficult for young adults, he says, especially if their peers continue to participate.
Nearly two years ago, the NCPG released a set of guidelines for colleges and universities that partner with gambling companies, noting that college and university students have higher rates of problem gambling.
A 2021 NCPG survey found that, among respondents aged 18-34 who had gambled in the past year, 27% reported engaging in at least one “problem gambling behavior indicator” “many times”, which signaled more than a casual attitude towards gambling. That rate was higher among men in the same demographic group.
“If a university is going to take money from a sports gambling company, it should provide resources to prevent problem gambling for its students,” Whyte says. This may include posters, public service announcements, courses or training. “Some of that revenue should be returned to ensure that students and student-athletes are not harmed by these relationships.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of college athletics, has long taken an anti-gambling stance, but now the organization and its members are “evolving as the sports betting landscape continues to change,” NCAA spokeswoman Michelle Brutlag Hosick wrote in a statement to US News.
“Education about the harms of gambling remains a key focus of the NCAA,” the statement said, and the NCAA said it has partnered with EPIC Risk Management “to provide its members with a comprehensive education program about the harms of gambling and the protection of student-athletes.” , although not Do not elaborate on the details of what these educational programs involve.
This is not the first time that the so-called “vice industry” – which typically includes products with addictive potential such as drugs, alcohol and gambling – has been promoted on college campuses. Universities have long maintained partnerships with alcohol companies, and experts have also drawn similarities to the way universities often work with credit card companies, which can lead to financial problems for students.
Parents often educate their children about the dangers of things like drugs, alcohol, and even predatory credit card offers. But when it comes to gambling addiction, people are naive, says Michelle Malkin, an associate professor of criminal justice at East Carolina University in North Carolina who researches problem gambling and gambling-motivated crime.
“In general, all people, unless it’s someone who’s had someone with a gambling addiction in their family, don’t realize when they’re betting that there’s a slippery slope to addiction, like addiction,” she says.
Sports betting, with its unique potential for excitement, is particularly attractive, but also dangerous, she says. People often start with small bets that they can afford, but when they win or lose, they either crave more or try to recoup the losses from the previous bet. A $5 bet turns into $10, which turns into $100, and then into thousands. When the going gets tough, she says people often turn to illegal means to earn money to pay off debts.
She says parents should pay attention to their child’s behavior, whether it’s at home or on the phone if their child is away at college. If they are engrossed in watching a lot of sports and their mood is disproportionately affected by the results of the games, this could be a sign that they have a gambling problem. Too often, he says, people don’t realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.
“When it comes to young people, emerging adults, those people on college campuses, there just isn’t as much information out there about how to gamble in a healthy way,” she says. “The problem is that most young people wouldn’t know the telltale signs that they have a gambling problem because all their friends are doing it.”
Whyte adds that “most colleges have no idea how many of their students are already gambling, much less whether that rate is going up or down.”
Education and modeling of responsible behavior
The state of Ohio legalized sports betting on January 1, 2023. While the state’s largest school, The Ohio State University, has not announced plans for a sports betting partnership, the university’s student wellness center says it is ready to help students who may develop the problem.
“Educating students about responsible gambling and the risks and pitfalls associated with gambling is a very important issue,” Roger Perkey, wellness coordinator for outreach and prevention at the OSU Student Wellness Center, wrote in an email. “If students are properly educated, they will be able to recognize early if there is a problem, which will be much cheaper to fix than the latter.”
Matt Jones, founder of Kentucky Sports Radio, which covers University of Kentucky sports, says it’s a mistake for colleges to use predatory means to lure students into gambling, but he points out that some students will gamble whether they feel like it or not. University.
“There is no such thing as a world in which you can get rid of all vices,” he says. “I think colleges should try to educate their students about the dangers of all of this.”
When LSU announced its seven-figure partnership with Caesars, which would include a student scholarship fund, the university said in a press release that “Caesars is committed to working with the Louisiana Gambling Association, regulators and the community to ensure responsible gaming resources for all qualified bettors in the state and raising awareness of the responsible gaming tools available on the Caesars Sportsbook app.”
Other schools that have formed similar partnerships have also committed to offering gambling addiction education and resources to people who need help.
Experts say it starts with parents modeling what gambling — or engaging in any potentially addictive activity — looks like responsibly. They should be shown how and when to walk away and set limits, and how to withstand peer and social pressure to participate when they reach their limits, Delony says.
Most children who gamble have parents who also work, Whyte says.
“Parents play a big role in talking openly with their kids about it and thinking about how their gambling might be affecting their kids,” he says. “Be aware that it can be an addictive activity. There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around it, but for parents it’s a great teaching moment.”