You Can Bet On It

The unfortunate ugly side of sports gambling

Gambling can negatively impact finance, relationships and mental health.


As I mentioned in earlier articles, the legalization of sports betting has increased income and employment opportunities, among other benefits. However, it’s critical to acknowledge the potential harm it could cause to individuals and society at large if done irresponsibly.

Before we jump into the negative effects of a gambling addiction, let’s discuss why people develop these addictions in the first place. 

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Video Games

While people might not realize it, video games enable teens to make quick decisions without consequences, which can lead to gambling later in life. 

In one instance, an 11-year-old boy playing a simple “brick-breaker” game ran up bills of hundreds of dollars on his mother’s credit card to buy coins that allowed him to access new levels. By creating more and more levels that cost money, video games manipulate kids’ ambition and constant want for more, which can turn them into gamblers.


An increase in gamblers and allure can be attributed to advertisements, specifically through text messages. Researchers at Ipsos found “96% of the 11-24 year old participants had been exposed to gambling marketing messages in the past month.” It’s just a text, right? But for a curious teenager, it could be the first step toward a crippling addiction.

Television advertising is also a way to attract new gamblers. ESPN has popular gambling shows like Daily Wager and others that mention gambling, such as Outside The Lines and SportsCenter. People around the United States are constantly watching ESPN for sports news, so they will likely stumble across a show that talks about the ins and outs of gambling and become more interested in what it has to offer.

Mobile Apps

Nowadays, there are a multitude of betting apps, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, that allow individuals to gamble on any sport. These apps hook people into gambling by offering enticing deals for new customers. For example, on FanDuel’s website, there is a promo code on the front page: “Bet $5, Get $200 in Bonus Bets.” 

While this might seem like a great deal, if someone isn’t well-versed on how to gamble safely and responsibly (meaning they haven’t read the second installment of this column) then the thrill of betting on sports can escalate into a compulsive behavior. 

The accessibility and convenience of these online betting platforms have exacerbated this issue as bettors can wager without having to physically go to a casino, giving them the opportunity to bet at any time of the day. 

So what? It’s just an addiction, how bad could it be? What could it lead to?

Financial Ruin

When it becomes an addiction, sports gambling can quickly lead to devastating financial issues. People may wager more money than they can afford to lose, often chasing losses in the hopes of recouping their funds. This reckless behavior can result in crippling debt, which can take years to recover from, if at all. According to, “more than five million adults meet the criteria as ‘problem gamblers’ … the average debt generated by a man addicted to gambling is between $55,000 and $90,000. Women gamblers average $15,000 of debt.”

In addition, many people learn to cover up their debt without family members finding out, which perpetuates the turmoil. Other types of addiction, like alcohol or drug use, are more difficult to hide because of physical signs such as dilated pupils, smell, bottles, needles, etc. With gambling, however, it is easier to cover up losing a great deal of money by immediately selling a valuable item. For example, a gambler can lose $1,000 and then sell a watch and no one suspects anything.

Impact on Families

The negative consequences of sports gambling often extend beyond the individual. Families can suffer as well, with spouses, children and other loved ones experiencing the emotional and financial fallout of a family member’s gambling addiction. Relationships may deteriorate, trust can be eroded and family dynamics can become strained.

Most intimate partners of gamblers lose trust in their partner and feel resentment towards them, according to a study done by Springer Open. Trust is one of the most important aspects of a relationship and if someone resents their partner for gambling, the relationship has a slim chance of surviving.

Social and Mental Health Issues

The stress and anxiety associated with gambling-related financial problems can contribute to several mental health issues, including depression and suicidal thoughts. Problem gamblers may also withdraw from social activities, leading to isolation and loneliness. According to, “1 in 5 addicted gamblers attempt suicide — 20 times the rate of non-gamblers.”

Additionally, those with unhealthy gambling addictions were more likely to partake in other risky behaviors such as the use of cigarette smoking, according to a study done by the National Library of Medicine.

So what can we do to prevent addiction? 

Well, we can put in place safeguards to prevent excessive gambling, educate people about problem gambling and help those who are impacted by the addiction. 

Gambling can be an exhilarating and beneficial experience, but just like activities such as shopping and exercising, if done in an irresponsible way without limits, it can turn into a crippling addiction. 

As always: If you or a loved one suffers from a gambling addiction, please call 1-800-GAMBLER to get help. 

Joshua Sacher is a sophomore writing about the growing sports gambling phenomenon in his column, “You Can Bet on It,” which runs every other Wednesday. He is also a sports editor at the Daily Trojan.

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