Sports betting is already popular on college campuses, and based on a recent poll by Morning Consult, it will become even more prevalent as more and more states pass sports betting legislation. Since the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on May 14, already New Jersey and Delaware have begun licensing operators to offer sport wagering. Morning Consult found that 21 percent of survey respondents said “they’re likely to bet on sporting events if the practice becomes legalized in their state,” and the ages trend younger, with 38 percent of the subset responding affirmatively of ages 18-34.
According to the National Center For Responsible Gaming (NCRG), 75 percent of college students gambled to a certain extent in the past year. As a rising junior at Syracuse University, I can attest that sports betting is already very popular on my campus and others. And as a sport management major, gambling is something that is often talked about both inside and outside the classroom.
Do the above facts and figures accurately represent college-student gambling tendencies? My conversations with several peers revealed that some do enjoy sports betting responsibly, but some have fallen into addiction.
Sports Betting on Campus: Excitement, Pitfalls and Risk Taking, as Told by Fellow Students to a Rising Syracuse Junior.
College students have always had a reputation for being risk takers with things like alcohol, drugs, music, sex and gambling. The freedom of not living under the same roof as their parents for the first time allows young adults to indulge in new experiences and opportunities.
There are many different types of college sports bettors. They wager for many reasons, with different frequency and in different amounts. Some college students bet on sports to try and earn a quick buck in an exciting fashion. After talking to and interviewing a sampling of college students, the one constant is that gambling has an immense presence on college campuses. Almost every college student has come in contact with sports gambling one way or another and it can have a negative, positive, or no effect on their daily lives.
According to Many Interviews and Observations, Sports Betting College Students Fall Into Two Key Categories.
When college students come in contact with sports gambling, there tends to be two different ways of approaching the topic. The first, being the students strapped for cash, looking for what appears to be an easy way to make money. These are the students who typically have a negative experience with sports betting.
Gambling can very easily turn into an addiction. Once an 18- or 21-year-old gets a taste of winning, (s)he may continue to bet until the situation goes south. For example, one student named Max described to me a negative experience that had a major impact on his life (names herein changed for anonymity). This student considers himself a moderate sports fan, who made roughly a few hundred dollars gambling on basketball the first two weeks of having an active sports betting account with a bookie on campus. “This was my first real experience betting on sports, and the thrill of winning and making free money was unlike anything I had done before.”
Unfortunately, the next few weeks did not treat him as well. He got cocky and ventured into the baseball world, knowing little about baseball. “I like to consider myself a big basketball fan. I enjoy watching baseball but I didn’t know enough about the sport to be placing bets on it. That was my problem.”
Max continued to gamble and eventually dug himself into a hole from which he struggled to climb out. (This is similar to the college experience of a recovering addict who previously spoke to Sports Handle.)
Max owed one of the local bookies more than $300 and had to seek help from his parents to bail him out. Fortunately, he was able to settle this issue without any serious consequences. Through the experience, he learned never to gamble with money he did not necessarily have access to.
According to the NCRG Most College Students Gamble Responsibly.
The NCRG writes that “while the vast majority of college students who are of legal age to gamble do so responsibly. Six percent of college students in the U.S. have a serious gambling problem that can result in psychological difficulties, unmanageable debt, and failing grades.”
When asked about the future of legal sport gambling, Max was clear that it’s not for him.
“It seems like the expansion of sport gambling would be positive to the different sport leagues, but I am going to stay away from it,” he said.
The Second Group: Sports Fanatics Responsibly Enjoying Sports Betting.
The second type of college sports gamblers are the people who love to follow sports and actively engage in sporting events. These types of students consider themselves sports gurus who gamble using strategies to make the games more exciting.
Cory is an avid NFL and New York Giants fan and uses sports gambling as a way to test his knowledge of his team and the league as a whole. Cory uses strategies when he gambles, so he can gain an edge. “Before I ever place a bet, I will do research looking at different trends, and other statistics so I have the best opportunity to win my bet.” Cory also stressed the importance of self-control whenever he decides to place a wager. “Many of my friends who also gamble tend to get lost in the experience. It is very easy to double-down if the team they bet on is not winning, and they can very easily lose double the amount they originally bet.”
Each week during the NFL season, Cory sets himself up with a cap he can spend on gambling. If he loses, he pays his bookie, and is done for the week. If he wins, he will often save the money he earns and put it toward food or clothing.
These types of people often make gambling a social event with their friends, who bet on the same event and cheer together. When asked about the camaraderie of sports gambling in social settings, Cory laughed and said, “There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like gathering around a TV with your buddies, and the potential to either win or lose real money by the end of the game.”
These types of sports gamblers are the people who typically use either a local bookie or a reliable offshore site. When asked about the future of sports gambling, the response from these types of gamblers was extremely positive and they seemed excited to see sports gambling expand.
“Personally I never really understood why sports gambling was illegal at all,” Cory said. “The possibilities seem to be incredible, and as long as people enjoy it responsibly, it can be an amazing way to enjoy sports.”
They are not all old enough to legally gamble yet, but they’re optimistic about the opportunity to gamble legally, rather than relying on college bookies.
Justin Davis is a Sports Handle summer intern and rising junior at Syracuse University’s David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.