• Americans bet record amounts on the Super Bowl this year.
  • Online sports betting is addictive, particularly for young people who’s brains aren’t fully developed.
  • States and companies join the online sports betting industry because it’s so lucrative.

The gambling capital of America hosted its first Super Bowl on Sunday — a fitting location given the unprecedented number of online sports bets Americans placed on the game.

Once totally illegal in the U.S., many now consider online sports betting integral to any sporting event. Fans can place bets on anything from the outcome of a game, to the performance of a player, to the color of Gatorade splashed on the winning coach — all from the comfort of their couch.

An American Gaming Association survey of U.S. adults predicted 67.8 million Americans would bet roughly $23.1 billion dollars on the Super Bowl.

Available data suggests the true number might be much higher.

More than 120 million people in 28 states logged into sports betting apps on Sunday, according to GeoComply, an internet verification company that checks the location of potential bettors for online sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel.

Minutes before the game started, GeoComply was conducting a record-breaking 15,000 location checks per second.

FanDuel claims it took 14 million bets, worth $307 million, from 2.5 million customers – 40% more than the 10 million bets worth $215 million it took last year.

As of Tuesday, no other major sportsbooks have disclosed their Super Bowl gambling data.

America’s prolific Super Bowl gambling suggests people believe ads portraying online sports betting as harmless fun or an opportunity to make a quick buck.

In reality, this kind of betting is highly addictive.

The executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling claims the overall risk of getting addicted to gambling increased 30% from 2018, when sports betting was legalized, to 2021, with young men who engage in sports betting at the highest risk.

Similarly, a Rutgers study of college students found those who gambled online were more likely to become addicted.

The way our brains process sports betting contributes to the problem.

Unlike gambling games of chance, sports betting gives people an illusion of control — a psychological trick that makes bettors think they can win with knowledge and skill.

People struggling with the illusion of control might make increasingly large wagers to dig themselves out of debt, convinced the next bet will be the “sure thing” that changes their luck.

It’s harder to place these kinds of impulsive, last-ditch bets in person because physically placing a bet or withdrawing cash from an ATM  gives gamblers more time to retract foolish wagers.

Online sports books, on the other hand, encourage impulsivity. Sports betting apps make gambling instantaneous, with most apps allowing you to put money down without pausing the game.

Combined with the endless variety of bets available, online sports betting is a uniquely habit-forming gambling cocktail. Young people are particularly vulnerable because the part of the brain responsible for impulse control doesn’t fully mature until age 25.

Despite the harms, states will likely continue legalizing online sports betting — it’s a cash cow for gambling companies and the states who host them.

New Jersey has reportedly raked in the most, handling an estimated $45.7 billion worth of online sports bets since 2018. That translates to $3.4 billion in revenue for sports betting companies and about $470 million in taxes for the state.

Parents can protect their kids from the sneaky addiction of online gambling through:

  • Education:Teach your kids why gambling is dangerous and how quickly it can get out of hand. Consider starting these conversations when a sports betting ad shows on TV, or when gambling ads pop up on your child’s favorite computer game. You can also connect gambling to biblical teachings against greed.
  • Discipleship: Don’t demonstrate gambling behaviors you don’t want your kids to mimic. If you already struggle with gambling, consider getting help with the resources below.
  • Communication: Ensure your child feels comfortable confiding in you if they struggle with gambling. Remind them that help is available.

Additional Articles and Resources

Online Sports Betting Hooking Young Men on Gambling, Research Suggests

The Best Bet is One that I Lost

Focus on the Family Gambling Help