Op-Eds Opinion

Whitehouse: Sports betting is here to stay

Luke Whitehouse

Sports betting has gained steam over the past several years, especially among the younger generation. If you walk on any college campus, you’ll hear the words “parlay,” or “betting lines” being discussed. On Jan. 31, sports betting for anyone over the age of 21 became officially legal in Massachusetts, and online betting followed in March. The amount of gambling has only increased.

With March marking the start of the Division I NCAA men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments, the timing for betting companies was perfect.

DraftKings and FanDuel – the most-frequented mobile betting sites – took full advantage, offering their new customers “bonus bets” and “free plays,” giving new bettors a certain amount of “no-risk” betting opportunities in hopes of getting them to download their apps. And it worked; according to NBC Boston, more than 400,000 mobile betting accounts were created in the first three days, along with more than $8 million in transactions.

During spring break, my friends and I watched the tournament games, cheering for our favorite teams and against their rivals. Another theme of this year, though, was the amount of betting going on. Whether it was a $5 or $10 wager, it became a game within the game, which made for an intense watching experience.

For example, when No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off an improbable upset over No. 1 Purdue, many of my friends struck gold – resulting in huge profits. The room was ecstatic, and even the ones who didn’t have any wagers on the game were happy. A few days later, No. 8 Arkansas knocked off No. 1 Kansas by one point in one of the most exciting games of the tournament – providing many bettors who took Arkansas a thrilling victory.

These are the types of games that sports betting can affect. The games in which fan interest only lies with those who have a connection to the team may expand due to sports bets being placed. And with sports betting expanding to almost every major American sport, as well as some global matches, it’s well-positioned to attract different groups of fans. It can create a thrill for viewers from all over the country – whether it be a game in March Madness, or a typical Tuesday night regular-season hockey game.

Now, with all of this momentum surrounding sports betting, there is something we should be reminded about: it is still gambling. And gambling itself can cause a financial burden if you don’t win – which happens quite a bit – as well as a possible addiction. About 6% of U.S. college students say they have a serious problem gambling, according to the nonprofit International Center for Responsible Gambling.

This is a real concern among full-time college students because of their lack of income, and the financial implications it may cause in the future due to addiction.

Another thing to consider is how easy it is to place a bet. In just a couple taps of a button, individuals have the opportunity to place bets from anywhere. According to Front Office Sports, money bets on sports ballooned to 7.5 billion dollars in 2022, soaring above 2021’s record of 4.3 billion. Betting is now legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

One thing is for certain: sports betting is here to stay.

I still believe betting has a place, especially young adults with a passion and love for sports. It adds an exhilarating experience to almost every game or match, and can add another dimension to watching. If done right, you can even make a profit.

Colleges are getting in on the sports betting game. At least eight universities have deals with sports gambling companies, and the New York Times has reported that “at least a dozen athletic departments … have signed an agreement with brick-and-mortar casinos.” In the Bay State, betting on college sports is allowed – but not on teams from Massachusetts schools, unless the local team is participating in a tournament like March Madness.

So how could colleges improve the betting experience, especially for the younger audience? Institutions could create classes that inform their students about the risks that surround sports betting – but also address ways to build intelligent habits.

It’s a phenomenon that’s not slowing down. So with that, we – as a society – have to adjust. As a college student, I think the best thing we can do is healthily balance the risks and rewards.

Photo Courtesy MassLive.com

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