Experts: Young Men at High Risk of Developing Gambling Addiction Amid Sports Betting Craze

The nation has been captivated by the wave of sports betting legalization that has swept across the country in recent years. Not surprisingly, the sports leagues themselves have also deluged fans with all the most up-to-date gambling info they need to help them place the most effective wagers.

However, according to a panel of experts, there may be an unintentional or intentional negative outcome from that gambling craze: It may be turning young men into gambling addicts.

The gambling craze among men 18-24 is being fueled by a surge in “easy-access” online gambling that makes a special appeal to first-time gamblers by offering new customers credits and first-bet loss forgiveness. Those tantalizing lures are often all sportsbooks need to pull in young, would-be bettors.

“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,” said Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University School of Social Work.

A recent study on gambling in New Jersey seems to back up the claim. According to a 2023 report from the Rutgers University Center for Gambling Studies, one-third of gamblers aged 18-24 made their wagers exclusively online. That figure is not only higher than any other age group but also five times higher than the last time the school conducted such a survey in 2017.

betting bet sport phone gamble laptop concept - sports gambling addiction stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Betting bet sports phone gamble laptop over shoulder soccer live home website concept – stock image (Scyther5/Getty Images)

Nower added, “The more people gamble, the more activities they gamble on, and the younger they start, the more likely they are to develop problems with not only gambling itself but also mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and suicidality.”

The report is particularly timely given that the New Year’s Day College Football Playoff games are set to kick off and potentially break sports gambling records.

Alabama Crimson Tide players takes the field prior to playing the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic for the College Football...

Alabama Crimson Tide players take the field before playing the Cincinnati Bearcats in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic for the College Football Playoff semifinal game at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2021, in Arlington, Texas. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

“The strongest component of the addiction of smoking, drugs or alcohol — not the only one, but the strongest one — is debatably dopamine,” said psychologist James Whelan of the University of Memphis.

“And when you gamble, your brain secretes more dopamine than when you do any of those other things.”

Sports gambling is now legal in 36 states across the country.


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