New York Set National Gambling Records In January, Which May Not Be A Good Thing

Baruch College panel focuses on money lost by bettors
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News of the record amount of money legally wagered on sports bets in New York in January — $1.6 billion in not even a full month of mobile sports betting in the state — has been met by shock and awe by gaming industry insiders and the general public alike.

But Jim Maney, the executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, focused on a different number.

“New Yorkers lost $113 million in only 23 days,” Maney pointed out Wednesday during a Baruch College panel titled “The Law and Ethics of Sports Gambling in New York.”

With the state having only authorized $6 million out of a projected $1.8 billion in 2022 revenue to address compulsive gambling issues, Maney said, “They’re not doing a good job. That’s not even a fair attempt.”

“You see an ad every day, with every event, but not ads about the risk of people gambling,” Maney added. “Maybe you see a couple of those here and there. But [the ratio] is like 2,000 to 1. A 12- to 14-year-old boy watching the game sees those ads … and they don’t even know what addiction is.”

Everybody wins? Not really

Maney said one ad after another shows giddy gamblers winning money.

“But if everyone is winning, how did we lose $113 million in 23 days?” Maney asked.

At a gaming conference in the Meadowlands in December, Maney said he saw one panelist note how much time many young women spend on TikTok, and how that could be a target audience for revenue growth.

“We just have to get them to start gambling,” Maney quoted the panelist as saying.

Maney, who suggests that 3% of gambling revenue be directed to compulsive gambling programs, added that he believes treatment for such an addiction should come at no cost to the person grappling with it. The gambler already has paid his dues through losses, Maney suggested, and an individual in that predicament who’s asked to pay even $25 might just see that money as a chance to make another wager that, improbably, could turn things around.

Where is technology leading us?

The new world of technology, which has even toddlers taking to smartphones, has created a new learning environment that could have serious ramifications. Research on such issues is paramount, Maney said.

“We have no idea what technology has done to young kids,” Maney noted.

The current debate being reviewed this week by New York’s highest court on whether daily fantasy sports is predominantly a game of skill or of chance is not the real point, Maney said.

“Skill or no skill, it’s gambling,” he said.

Panelist Alicia Jessop, an associate professor of sport administration at Pepperdine University, has her own idea of how the general public could be better informed about gambling.

“I would like to see a huge billboard that says, ‘Millionaires don’t gamble,'” Jessop said, citing a study which found that wealthy people got that way in part because most of them don’t dabble in such activity.

Jessop added that gamblers who play remotely are providing critical personal information to gaming operators and other companies. The result can be that if a football player known to be popular with a consumer scores a touchdown, that consumer might instantly receive an advertisement promoting the sale of that athlete’s jersey.

“We’re being played, and we all need to wake up,” Jessop said.

More fine print for gambling ads

Maney said that pharmaceutical advertising in the U.S. carries with it a comprehensive list of potential side effects — to a point, Maney said, that his daughter once asked him why anyone would take a medication that increases risk of death.

“Imagine if [gambling ads] had warning signs,” Maney said. “Some gamblers will go bankrupt, lose their families, and there will be deaths. But [such ads] don’t do those things.”

Another panelist, Drake University law professor Keith Miller, criticized lawmakers in states such as New York and New Jersey that don’t allow wagers on games involving in-state college teams — calling those nothing more than “feel-good restrictions.”

Panel moderator and Baruch law professor Marc Edelman pointed to three states — Massachusetts, Maryland, and Tennessee — that impose a limit on the amount a resident can wager at a particular sportsbook. The only way around the cap is for the book to vet a specific individual’s finances and make sure a larger amount risked “would not affect their ability to live a stable and normal life.”

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State business school professor John Holden said that wall-to-wall gambling advertising in the United Kingdom has contributed to a “sports betting addiction crisis” there. And with the amount of publicity U.S. companies are getting, Holden said the UK may be foreshadowing what’s to come in America.

Image: Shutterstock

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