What will be the social costs of increased gambling? Who will pay them?

Feb 19, 2024

The National Council of Problem Gambling estimates that the national annual social cost of problem gambling is $7 billion. These costs include gambling related criminal justice and healthcare spending as well as job loss, bankruptcy and other consequences. Furthermore, roughly 7 million Americans suffer from gambling addiction. Gambling addiction is on the rise, as these statistics indicate.

Social costs of gambling addiction to individuals include crime, addiction, financial difficulties and disruption of interpersonal relationships.

Gambling has the attention of Americans. It has become a big part of our sports culture and everyday lives as fans. It’s more ingrained into our society now than ever before, and the resulting downsides are also becoming much more prominent. .

Social Costs

Cultural Norms

In today’s mainstream culture, gambling and sports betting has become normalized. What was once seen as a vice in the shadows of U.S. culture is now increasingly popular among millions of Americans. To put it in perspective, nearly 68 million people in the U.S. expected to bet on Super Bowl LVIII, according to an AGA survey.

Societal attitudes towards gambling have become more positive as the sports betting industry grows in popularity. The advancement of technology and social media have both played an integral part in evolving views of gambling. The new generation of gamblers wants instant action, and online sportsbooks and mobile casinos give them exactly that. The convenience of betting from mobile phones is a huge reason why gambling has become so popular and normalized, but it also contributes to the increasing rates of gambling addiction.

Gambling Addiction Rates Increasing

Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG), says problem gambling is a “ticking time bomb.”

The NCPG saw a 30 percent increase in gambling problems between 2018 and 2023. Bettors are being exposed to more betting content now then ever. Sports betting companies are promoting their sportsbook every day through social media and advertisements. At the same time, calls to gambling hotlines are up. The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling saw a 138% increase in calls to their help hotline from December 2023 to January 2024.

There is no denying that gambling addiction rates are increasing. With the ease of betting from anywhere within any of the 38 states where some form is legalized, problem gambling is growing in the U.S.

Who is impacted most?

Young males in the U.S. 

While problem gambling impacts a wide variety of people in the United States, young men are being affected the most. People in their early 20s are the fastest growing demographic of gamblers, according to an APA study. A report on NJ gambling by Rutgers University found that younger men aged 18-44 were most likely to be high-risk gamblers and 19% of the 18-to-24-year-old group were at high risk for problem gambling. 

Other vulnerable populations

Gambling addictions do not just affect young people. Another population that is vulnerable to it is the elderly. Older adults represent a growing portion of calls to problem gambling hotlines in the U.S. In a study by Suzi Levens, 842 older adults were surveyed and 10.9% were identified as having at-risk gambling behaviors.

Furthermore, individuals with a history of problem gambling in their family are more susceptible to gambling disorders. Some studies have also found an association between problem gambling and poverty.

State and Federal governments

As of right now, there is no federal funding for problem gambling within the United States. Funding to treat gambling addiction is handled by each individual state - on a state-by-state basis.

The NCPG is looking to change the way funding is acquired. They have proposed the Gambling Addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment (GRIT) Act in which half of the revenue from a new federal sports excise tax would fund programs of gambling addiction prevention, treatment and research.

The GRIT Act would provide support to state health agencies and nonprofits battling gambling addiction. However, it has not yet been approved or enacted. 

Sport betting as a gateway

Online Casino 

Mobile sportsbooks attract young people to bet on various sporting contests. Additionally, within the app there is at times also an online casino offering that many users find after sports betting. Casino gaming companies are looking to convert young people that bet on sports into their online casino, where their profits margins are much higher. Therefore, sports betting is often viewed as a gateway to casino gaming.

Growth of Online Lottery

Alongside sports betting and mobile gaming, the online lottery is growing as well. Revenue in the Online Lottery market is estimated to reach over $18 billion in 2024.

Just last week, DraftKings acquired Jackpocket, an increasingly popular online lottery app, for $750 million. The company is looking to grow in the U.S. lottery industry and aims to cross-sell sports bettors to try the online lottery, in addition to new iCasino offerings. 

Gambling Addiction help and resources

There are new resources to treat problem gambling. Birches Health provides personal treatment for those who may have gambling addiction. Affordable treatment is a core value of Birches Health. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem call (833) 483-3838 or email hello@bircheshealth.com.

SOURCES:

Why Super Bowl 58 was a record-breaking event for sports betting 

Gambling Addiction Is Now at an All-Time High | Money 

Rise of sports betting comes with increase in problem gambling

 ​​https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElT2jPDGUaM 

Young men face high risk for gambling addiction as sports betting surges: experts 

Gambling among older, primary-care patients: an important public health concern

Introduction of the Gambling addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment (GRIT) Act 

DraftKings goes all in on lottery app 

Online Lottery - Worldwide | Statista Market Forecast 

FAQs: What is Problem Gambling? 

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