Sports Betting Is Blowing Up

May 4, 2024 | Sports Betting

Gambling disorder is skyrocketing. Here’s what to know

Psychology Today Archives - Scharff MD

U.K. (May 3, 2024) — Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal ban on sports betting in May of 2018, 38 states and Washington, DC, now allow it—with more soon to follow.

States like the tax revenue it generates. In the third quarter of 2023 alone, for example, the state of New York took in $188 million.

The sports betting conglomerates like the ruling as well. As of August, 2023, the largest of these betting platforms—which will go unnamed here — was worth $31 billion.

Who are the losers in this new era of legalized sports betting? The thousands of Americans who are struggling every day with gambling disorder, a type of addiction that is surging throughout the U.S. because of the ease and omnipresence of sports betting.

You can place a bet anytime, from anywhere, on sports of all types, just by hitting a few buttons on your smartphone.

The new sports betting apps even allow you to place a bet by drawing money directly from your bank account.

Gambling addiction is real.

Once defined as an impulse control disorder, gambling disorder was reclassified in 2013 as a full-blown addiction disorder. Today, it remains the only behavioral or “process” addiction, rather than a chemical addiction that involves drugs or alcohol.

Experts define gambling disorder as an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. This may include family breakups, job and financial loss, legal problems, and more.

As with substance use disorder, gambling disorder involves an increasing tolerance that requires more and more gambling to get the same high.

People with gambling disorder often place bets that lead to losses, they use up savings, and they create debt. They also tend to hide their behavior, and will occasionally turn to theft or fraud to support their addiction. Many continue to “chase” their losses with more gambling.

Are we experiencing a sports betting epidemic?

It seems so.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling—which operates the 800-GAMBLER hotline—calls are skyrocketing. Consider these numbers:

  • In Florida, sports betting was legalized in November, 2023. Calls to its problem gambling hotline have doubled since then.
  • In Pennsylvania, online sports betting became legal in 2019. Calls to the state’s gambling hotline doubled from 2020 to 2023.
  • In Ohio, sports betting became legal in 2023. Calls to that state’s problem gambling hotline increased 55 percent that year.

The addiction treatment center in Florida, where I am the chief medical officer, is primarily for people with drug and alcohol problems, but we’re seeing a surge in patients with gambling disorder as well.

To me, the reason for that is simple: accessibility. In the addiction world, greater access almost always leads to greater prevalence, and sports betting is as accessible as it gets.

Sports betting companies monitor their user behavior.

These companies became very good, very quickly at hooking their customers with sophisticated data analytics and real-time tracking software.

As reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article, sports betting companies track user behavior 24 hours a day. They collect data on how much time a user spends on a site or app, how much money they gamble, what type of bets they place on which sports, and how much they lose.

Maybe most diabolically of all, companies know if their users stop using the app or stop visiting the site. This prompts the companies to offer credits and other incentives (“Bonus bets up to $100!” “Second Chance Bet!”) to lure users back to active status.

Final thoughts on sports betting.

Regarding what people can do if they think they have a sports gambling problem, one solution is abstinence. That starts with deleting all the betting apps on your phone, then seeking treatment.

States have hotlines to call so people can talk to therapists or find a gambling treatment facility nearby. You can also call 1-800-GAMBLER, which has call, text, or chat options, or contact the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline at 800-662-4357, or

Of note: The well-known addiction medication naltrexone—which for years has been helping people with alcohol and opioid use disorders—is proving to be effective for those with gambling disorder as well.

Lastly, as with substance use disorder, please know this: Lifelong recovery from gambling disorder is possible. People are achieving it every day. The time to act is now.

To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


State revenues from sports betting:

(2024). A Psychiatrist Tried to Quit Gambling. Betting Apps Kept Her Hooked. Wall Street Journal.

About the Author

Lantie Elisabeth Jorandby M.D.

Lantie Jorandby, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist with certification in Addiction Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. She’s the Chief Medical Officer of Lakeview Health Addiction Treatment & Recovery in Jacksonville, Florida.

View the original article.

SOURCE:  Psychology Today.

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