Gambling addiction is no game


The Kansas City Chiefs edged the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL’s biggest game Sunday night, watched by more than 100 million people around the world.
But more than 50 million sports fans here at home in the United States had more invested in the game than pride in their favorite team. They wagered as much as $16 billion on Super Bowl LVII, according to the American Gaming Association. And just like football, someone’s going to win, which means someone has to lose. The thing is, being on the wrong side of a good bet is more common than not.
The money bet on the Chiefs and the Eagles was said to be more than double the total spent last year, when the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals. And these days that betting involves more than just choosing which team will win.
Take prop bets, more formally known as proposition bets. They aren’t tied to the outcome of the game — like traditional spreads, moneylines and totals. Instead, they focus on more non-traditional occurrences like the length of the national anthem, or what color Gatorade will be poured on the winning coach.
Prop bets are currently the biggest driver of revenue for many sports gambling sites, according to news reports. That is, except in New York, where the law requires that all bets be tied to the game itself.
Even with those restrictions, New York-based gamblers placed more than $472 million in legal sports bets during the Super Bowl between the Rams and Bengals — part of a larger $16 billion wagered in the first year of legalized online betting in New York. So far, based on the weekly figures from the state gaming commission, this year’s figure is predicted to be even larger. All from a practice that didn’t even exist here a couple years ago.
There are currently nine different mobile applications legally recognized by the state, with FanDuel, DraftKings and Caesar’s Sportsbook among the bigger ones. FanDuel and DraftKings began a decade or so ago, focused on fantasy sports, in which fans build their own teams and compete against each other using real-life game statistics.
But as sports gambling has gained more widespread legal acceptance, the influence of those two companies has grown, and they have shifted gears and focused most of their attention on this new, much-more-lucrative market.
There are strong opinions on both sides on whether gambling should be legal, or if it’s even moral. But something many agree on is that if you’re going to gamble, do it responsibly. Wager only what you can afford to lose. Don’t stretch — or even break — those limits.
And no different than a casino, mobile and online sports betting can also lead to problem gambling.
Like many addictions, gambling can be attributed to the release of dopamine brought on by the thrill of risk-taking and the potential rewards. Gambling, for the most part, is perfectly legal. But then again, so are cigarettes and alcohol.
But gambling is sometimes considered a “hidden addiction,” because it’s not something that might be as obvious as drugs or alcohol, manifesting physical symptoms, although some gamblers have problems with sleep, anxiety, depression and guilt.
For the working-class poor, gambling can also create a perpetual loop in which addicts throw away much-needed and typically hard-earned cash that would otherwise be spent on necessities like housing and food.
The good thing, however, is that there are services in place to help. The Long Island Problem Gambling Resource Center, for example, offers several services for individuals and families impacted by gambling.
These issues shouldn’t necessarily disqualify any talk of bringing a new casino to Uniondale, but they certainly should be part of the conversation — a big part of it. Every resource should be available to keep wagering responsible, and to avoid the destruction of families — both functionally and economically.
As always, if you or a loved one are dealing with problem gambling, you can get help by calling (516) 266-8342, or visiting www.NYProblemGambling.org.