Has America become a “society of gamblers”?

Mar 28, 2024

As we’ve documented in detail already here at Birches Health, sports as a whole in the U.S. has been overshadowed recently by an increasingly constant stream of ugly stories spotlighting the dark underside of sports betting. Gambling-centric scandals and related issues at both the professional and college level have brought it into the mainstream conversation, turning attention away from the competitions themselves and instead to the impact of sports betting’s rise across the country. 

Meanwhile, Bitcoin recently reached an all-time high and some speculators have become millionaires investing in smaller cryptocurrencies and tokens, sometimes dubbed “meme coins” or “shitcoins.” What can be viewed as a fast track to mega-wealth that’s often glamorized on social media comes at a time when the U.S. dollar has significantly less buying power than it did four years ago, leading thousands down dangerous paths of unknown exposure and risk. 

This week, famous investor and entrepreneur Anthony Pompliano wrote a lengthy post for his 1.6 million followers on X (formerly Twitter) with the headline “America Has Become A Society Of Gamblers.” Pompliano makes strong points throughout, focusing primarily on investing and the United States economy, but also highlights sports betting. 

U.S. Economy leading citizens toward “get rick quick” schemes

As Pompliano points out, “The US dollar has lost 25% of its purchase power since January 2020. For every $1 someone had 4 years ago, they can only buy $0.75 worth of goods today.” In this difficult financial environment, many lose hope of long-term stability and instead look to take swings with various forms of gambling, whether that be traditional lottery and casinos, the now-normalized sports betting route, or playing the market with day-trading of stocks or crypto. 

Using a baseball analogy, he adds, “Singles and doubles have created many millionaires. Home run swings lead to many strike outs.” Those “strike outs” are rarely spotlighted though, as tales of instant-riches dominate headlines and social media feeds. 

And as the U.S. dollar has declined, the crypto world’s golden-child Bitcoin has recently reached new heights. On March 14, it set a new record price of $73,750 per coin, with a market cap of around $1.44 trillion. The days of CNBC and other financial news outlets pretending that crypto doesn’t exist are long over, and as institutional investors have legitimized it further with federally approved Bitcoin ETFs, the appeal of alternative investments has only grown. 

The dangers of all forms of gambling 

Against this backdrop of normalized gambling of all kinds, addiction rates have also reached unprecedented levels. However, with little federal reporting or studies about the issue, the public has been left dependent on state-by-state reporting and anecdotal evidence. 

“It’s this ticking time bomb,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, back in 2021. “We have to take action now, but the problem is almost impossible to quantify.”

In the years since, many more states have legalized sports betting, including the online/mobile version that allows bettors to place wagers from the comforts of home from their phones or computers now available in 30 states. Florida, which went live with sports betting (again) after more than a year of lawsuits and appeals that are still ongoing, reported a 138% increase in calls and texts to their Gambling Addiction hotline between December and January. That period coincided with the state’s only legal sports betting app, Hard Rock Bet, going live. 

In New Jersey, which led the efforts to repeal PASPA in 2018 and allow sports gambling legalization up to the states, some 61% of NJ residents had gambled in the previous year, according to a 2023 report by the Rutgers Center for Gambling studies. Online gambling activity tripled from 5% to 15%, and the number of people who gambled both online and in-person nearly doubled from 19% to 36%. 

Felicia Grondin, Executive Director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, said, “It’s a hidden addiction. That’s the problem… Our [1-]800 gambling hotline has been extremely busy over the last number of years. Since 2016, we had a 225% increase in our helpline calls. So people are struggling,” The study also showed that 1/3 of online gamblers were 18 to 24 years old.

The media has recently begun to shine more of a spotlight on the issue, including the CBS flagship investigative program “60 Minutes” dedicating an entire segment in a February episode around the time of the Super Bowl that was held for the first time in Las Vegas. 

Until additional funding is spent on national research, it is difficult to quantify the impact that this gambling-normalized cultural shift will have on society as a whole. As Pompliano concludes, “The future damage created by this development is hard to comprehend. An entire generation is growing up in a different regime and it is unlikely they can be coaxed back into value investing, dollar-cost averaging, and other timeless investing principles. YOLO and FOMO rule the day. Such a sad reality.”

Gambling Addiction resources and treatment providers growing

One piece of positive news is that the awareness of this growing issue has led to the creation of specialized companies built to address it, including modern tele-healthcare provider Birches Health, which has a team of clinicians specially trained to treat Gambling Disorders and related behavioral health issues. From the comfort of one’s home, individuals can connect with a care specialist, see a clinician remotely, and receive a personalized treatment plan. Most treatment plans are covered by insurance or state government funding, ensuring that financial considerations are never a blocker to care. 

If you or someone you know may benefit from the Birches Health offerings, just call (833) 483-3838 or email hello@bircheshealth.com to connect with a care specialist. 

Sources:

Pomp 🌪 on X: "America Has Become A Society Of Gamblers You can see this everywhere you look. Zero-day options are dominating public markets. Meme coins are bought and sold like 1980’s boiler room penny stocks. Major sport leagues are integrating sports betting into every corner of their…" / X 

Online gambling increases in NJ, new report highlights problems | NJ Spotlight News 

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