This year’s FIFA World Cup is the first men’s tournament since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal ban on sports betting in 2018 allowed a growing list of states to legalize the activity.
An estimated 132 million Americans now live in states where sports betting is legal, compared with just 10 million during the last World Cup four years ago.
As a result, 20.5 million Americans plan to bet a total of $1.8 billion on the soccer tournament that begins this weekend. according to estimates by the American Gaming Association (AGA).
It’s encouraging to see bettors taking legality seriously. AGA reports that the majority of these bettors – 78% – say it is important to place legitimate bets.
The AGA also encourages bettors to keep their financial security in mind.
“As the World Cup begins, everyone involved in the action should have a game plan to bet responsibly,” Casey Clark, AGA senior vice president, said in a press release. “That means setting a budget, having fun, knowing the odds and playing with legit, regulated operators.”
Legal gambling means you may not get in trouble with the law when betting on the World Cup or any other sporting event. But it also means bettors can more easily slip into dangerous habits.
Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s safe
While placing friendly or even serious sports bets can be a fun way to get involved in the game, routine gambling can quickly become a problem before the person placing the bet even realizes it.
“[Gambling] is a hidden addiction — there aren’t that many outward signs,” Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told CNBC Make It.
Americans often recognize substance abuse by the physical, visible effects that substances can have on a person’s body, Whyte says. But: “Gambling has no substance, so people misinterpret it as morality or a matter of weak will.”
It is difficult to track the number of Americans dealing with problem gambling or clinically defined gambling addiction due to a lack of reporting, stigma, and a lack of awareness of problem behavior. But Whyte says the risk factors that can cause more people to have problems are increasing.
Risk factors can include lying to loved ones about gambling or having difficulty restricting betting, which NCPG has been able to track through surveys.
These indicators “up about 30% between 2018 and 2021,” says Whyte. “We’ve also seen a significant increase in calls, texts and chats to our national helpline – roughly a 45% increase in calls between 2021 and 2022.”
While these reports aren’t directly related to increases in problem gambling or addiction, they do signal that an increase in gambling venues can drive an upward trend in habits, Whyte says.
“The odds are always against you”
When it comes to sports betting, some might think the risk is lower than gambling like the lottery or slots because people can study the sports they are watching. Or maybe, as a player, they have some expertise that can help them better predict outcomes.
But Whyte says the opposite is true and that because of such trust, sports betting can carry greater risk.
“Sports betting is seen as a game of skill, some people think they’re better at it than others,” says Whyte. “But all the more so [frequently] they bet, the more skilled they become. It can encourage chasing your losses and continuing your gambling behavior well beyond the limits you set, well beyond reasonable losses and to significant financial damage.”
Ease of access has also made people more vulnerable to gambling problems, Whyte says. Before mobile sports betting became widely legal, bettors had to go to a physical sportsbook or work with a live bookmaker to place bets.
“It can be extremely fast speeds and high stakes, with 24-hour or instant access via electronic payments,” says Whyte. “In the long run, the odds are always against you – the more you play, the more likely you are to lose.”
Keep your bets friendly
While some states have enacted regulations to address gambling problems, Whyte says they are the exception.
“Most states are either too ignorant of the problems they are causing, or they are simply indifferent to the problems because their eyes are blinded by unexpected tax revenues,” says Whyte of gambling protections.
“I think states don’t want to be hooked on what they see as some sort of individual social problem,” he adds.
In this case, it is the individual’s responsibility to protect themselves from placing risky bets or becoming too habitual of gambling. That’s one of the reasons why NCPR created a website that offers tips and resources for bettors to gamble safely, such as: B. Setting a strict budget for your bets and encouraging you to quit when it’s no longer fun.
As Kenny Rogers famously sang, “Know when to walk away and when to run.”
If you or someone you know is showing signs of a gambling problem, you can call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 for free, confidential help that is available 24/7 .
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