Gambling & Alcohol: Bettors More Likely to Binge Drink

May 28, 2024

In recent years, the rise of mobile gaming apps and sites has revolutionized the sports betting landscape in the United States. This increased accessibility has made it easier than ever for individuals to place bets while watching their favorite sporting events. However, this convenience comes with significant risks, particularly concerning the potential for concurrent alcohol consumption. 

A study approved by the Bowling Green State University Institutional Review Board took a Census-matched sample of over 4,000 U.S. adults, finding sports gamblers reported higher frequencies of binge drinking compared to non-sports gamblers and non-gamblers. The study – conducted by Joshua B. Grubbs, PhD at the University of New Mexico, and Shane W. Kraus, PhD at UNLV – was published in JAMA Network Open and detailed in the SBC Player Protection Hub.

In this article, we’ll help explore the link between sports betting and alcohol use, discussing the methodology, results and implications of this study.

The Link Between Sports Betting and Alcohol Use

“Sports betting is really hot, it’s big business and there is virtually no research on it. Are people who are doing it more likely to have addiction issues?” This is the question posed by and motivating the research of Shane Kraus, Director of the UNLV Behavioral Addictions Lab. 

This study highlights a critical intersection between gambling and substance use. As sports betting becomes more widespread, evidence suggests that it is associated with higher rates of substance misuse, especially alcohol. Sports gamblers are not only more inclined to consume alcohol, but tend to engage in risky drinking behaviors. This aligns with the broader profile of sports bettors, who are generally more prone to risk-taking.

Study Overview and Methodology

Grubbs and Kraus conducted a comprehensive survey from March 17 to April 6, 2022, including 4,363 respondents. This sample was designed to provide an accurate reflection of the population, with an oversample of individuals who wager on sports. Participants were asked about their past year’s alcohol use and binge drinking habits, defined as consuming five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four or more drinks for women.

The study analyzed binge drinking frequency among sports gamblers, non-sports gamblers and nongamblers. The results were adjusted for demographic factors like age, race and ethnicity to isolate the effect of sports betting on drinking behaviors.

Key Findings

The findings from the study are striking:

  1. Higher Binge Drinking Rates: Sports bettors are more likely to indulge in higher frequencies of binge drinking compared to non-sports gamblers and nongamblers. This pattern was consistent across both men and women.

  2. Demographic Disparities: Sports gamblers tended to be younger and were more likely to be male, matching demographics already associated with higher alcohol consumption, compounding the risk.

  3. Adjusted Odds: Even after adjusting for age and race/ethnicity, sports gamblers had significantly higher odds of engaging in binge drinking. For instance, men who bet on sports were nearly twice as likely to binge drink weekly compared to their non-sports betting counterparts.

“Sports betting is not a problem for everyone but if you’re drinking you’re probably not making great financial decisions,” Kraus said.

Implications and Concerns

The link between sports betting and binge drinking has significant health implications. Binge drinking is associated with increased risk of accidents, health problems and the development of alcohol use disorders. The study’s findings suggest that as sports betting continues to grow, so too might harmful drinking behaviors among sports bettors.

Given the rapid expansion of sports wagering in the U.S., these results underscore the urgent need for preventive measures. Public health campaigns could focus on raising awareness about the risks of gambling while drinking, particularly among young men who are most likely to engage in sports betting. Additionally, top gambling platforms need to emphasize responsible gaming features and provide resources for users who may be struggling with alcohol abuse.

Additionally, it’s worth reminding readers that one of Birches Health’s top tips for Responsible Gaming is to avoid betting while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. 

A Call for Further Research

While the study by Grubbs and Kraus provides valuable insights, it also highlights the need for ongoing research. The nature of the study limits the ability to draw causation of whether general addiction issues contribute to an inclination to bet on sports. 

Kraus and Grubbs are eager to connect with operators and regulators to bolster their base of research. Additional research can explore the impact of different types of sports betting, such as in-play betting, as well as location (online vs in-person betting), which might be associated with even higher levels of risk-taking and alcohol use. Understanding these nuances can create a greater push for resources effectively direct and tailor those resources for individuals in need.

Gambling Addiction treatment options & resources

The intersection of sports betting and binge drinking represents a growing concern as the accessibility of online wagering continues to increase. The study by Grubbs and Kraus sheds light on the elevated risks sports bettors face regarding alcohol consumption. Despite the need for more government funding, including hopefully the passing of the GRIT Act, there are resources out there that can help effectively treat your Gambling Addiction and any other co-occurring disorders like problems with alcohol.

Birches Health provides specialized online treatment options for individuals struggling with Problem Gambling and related behavioral addictions. With experienced counselors and customized care plans, Birches ensures a supportive environment for recovery. Confidentiality, security and convenience are paramount, with many patients benefiting from zero out-of-pocket costs.

Sources:

Grubbs JB, Kraus SW. Binge Drinking Among Sports Gamblers. JAMA Netw Open. 2024;7(4):e245473. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.5473

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