Daily Camera (Boulder)

Sports betting regulation efforts must start now

- Jim Martin is a former CU regent. He taught sports law at CU and DU. He can be reached at jimmartine­sq@gmail. com.

Do you want a sure bet?

I’m wagering that the United States Supreme Court has turned America into one big casino.

We are in the middle of the largest and fastest expansion of legal gambling in the nation’s history and which is quite possibly, as some say, the next opioid crisis.

Wouldn’t you know it? A recent article from the Associated Press reminded us that Pointsbet has an exclusive agreement with the University of Colorado, suggesting that students are targets who want to bet.

“I struggle with any kind of predatory marketing, whether it’s cigarettes or alcohol,” said B. David Ridpath, a professor of sports administra­tion at Ohio University. “You can make the same argument with gambling.”

Online sports betting has put casinos in the pockets of millions of Americans, exacerbati­ng the risk of gambling addiction and threatenin­g a flood of bankruptci­es and suicides.

Experts blame the rapid growth on the fact that over 46 states have already passed laws that allow sports gambling to flourish, whether one is betting in a casino or via smartphone.

“It’s a ticking time bomb,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). “We need to take action now, but the problem is almost impossible to quantify.”

“About 2 percent of Americans, roughly 6.6 million people, struggle with gambling addiction,” White said.

Many researcher­s, though, have said it could be as high as 10 million.

From the Pew Research Center: As more states allow more sports betting, 19% of all U.S. adults have bet money on sports in the past year. One in twenty college students meet the criteria for compulsive gambling.

The Feb. 12 Super Bowl and the upcoming March Madness basketball games have put a fresh spotlight on the topic.

The America Gambling Associatio­n wrote that the Super Bowl LVII drew almost $16 billion in bets and that over 50 million Americans had planned to bet on the big game, up 61% from 2022.

It’s shocking to hear that the heart of sports gambling has switched from Las Vegas to smartphone­s.

Online betting offers easy access, primarily by using cell phones. According to experts, those who attended the Super Bowl made more than 100,000 bets on the game.

It was played at the

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and was the first time the Super Bowl was held in a state that allows sports gambling.

How did we get here? How did the United States Supreme Court turn our country into one big casino?

In May 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court in Murphy v NCAA, overturned a previous prohibitio­n, called “The Profession­al and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992,” which meant it was up to individual states to decide whether or not to offer sports gambling.

In 2019, voters approved Propositio­n DD, which legalized sports gambling in Colorado by a vote of 800,745 in favor and 756,712 opposed.

States including Colorado tried to win pro-gambling votes by telling voters that local projects would benefit from betting proceeds. In Colorado, that money is earmarked for state water projects.

Did Coloradans really know what they were approving? Just think: CU students can sit in Folsom

Field this fall with their cell phones, drain their bank accounts, and help relieve the multi-state water shortage.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, which is held by the NCPG. The theme this year is “awareness and action.”

The organizati­on’s goals this year are to “(1) increase public awareness of problem gambling and the availabili­ty of prevention, treatment and recovery services; and (2) to encourage health care providers to screen clients for problem gambling.”

Anyone, especially those concerned about their betting habits, can choose to get an initial online evaluation of a potential gambling problem next Tuesday, March 14, national screening day.

The NCPG annually chose March as its awareness month because it’s expected that the public will spend over $10 billion on sports gambling alone this month, thanks in part to March Madness — when both the men’s and women’s college basketball national championsh­ip tournament­s will be played across the nation.

Colorado was the seventh state to clear $8 billion (called the handle) in total sports betting as of Oct. 22; today that number stands at over $10 billion.

Colorado budget analysts have projected that sports betting tax revenue will double in this fiscal year alone and reach $24 million.

Do you think I’m overreacti­ng to the situation? Well, there is a dark side to the sports betting boom. States were just unprepared.

Here are a few examples of the potential downsides to gambling

• Addiction: Gambling Disorder is officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistica­l Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as an addiction — one that is just as impactful and destructiv­e as those related to drug consumptio­n;

• Financial problems;

• Potential for game fixing;

• Underage gambling: Though it’s illegal for those 21 and under to gamble, nobody can monitor kids when they’re in the privacy of their own homes;

• Easy accessibil­ity: Gambling opportunit­ies are easy to find online, making it more challengin­g for people with gambling disorders to control their impulses;

• Mental health problems.

Overall, we need a coordinate­d approach from policymake­rs, stakeholde­rs and society. Everyone has to be on board.

Suggested solutions

• Increase public education and awareness;

• Policymake­rs need to implement responsibl­e gambling measures, such as setting limits on deposits, betting limits and access to initial free betting offers;

• Increase regulation and oversight;

• Collaborat­ion with “all” sports leagues, universiti­es and other organizati­ons to monitor sports gambling;

• Invest more in research and treatment for problem gambling;

• Adopt a marketing code for sports wagering;

America has gone too far in legalizing sports gambling without proper guardrails from the states.

It’s hard for us to track this fast-acting crisis, but it’s essential we do so. There is no other choice.

Who wants to bet how many games the University of Colorado football team, under first-year manager Coach Prime, will win this year?

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