Sports betting isn’t a new phenomenon, but it was only a year ago that Michigan legislators gave the green light for online and mobile gambling to be allowed for adults aged 21 and older. Chances are you’ve seen the numerous ads for FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, or even The Michigan Lottery who have jumped on board with their own app. There are attractive claims of winning big money from your phone, but just because you can gamble online doesn’t mean you should.
Gambling and the Human Brain
Let’s be honest: gambling is enjoyable for many people because it appeals to our brain’s reward system. Taking a risk pumps our adrenaline, and winning rewards gives us a huge dopamine hit. Gambling addiction acts just like alcohol or drugs in which the amount of dopamine received from the act will lessen over time. This can drive gamblers to up their stakes higher and higher to receive larger doses of dopamine, and can put them at risk for bigger losses.
Mobile Gambling Can Be a Slippery Slope
Online casinos and sports betting companies understand the odds are in their favor and are more than willing to exploit it in the name of profits. Recent reports claim these companies made over $1.4 billion in revenue in 2021. The convenience of mobile gambling apps has allowed them to greatly expand their audiences, and it makes sense. You no longer need to go to the horse track, and it’s a lot harder to leave the casino when it’s always available in your pocket. One of the most common traps of gambling is when losers try to recoup their lost funds with continued gambling. This cycle leads to the news stories you hear of families losing all of their savings or homes.
Sports betting is no different. It may “make the game more interesting” to have some skin in it, but these companies operate on the revenue they generate when you lose. One common trick is to offer a small starter risk with the promise of a big reward. This might sound like “Bet $5 on the big game, win $300!” These offers lure new users in, but the payouts will never be as high again. The hope is you’ll keep playing anyway.
How much are we increasing the risk of gambling addiction by making it so convenient and easy? Not everyone who engages with the act is going to develop bad habits, but clearly casting a wider net will catch more fish.
The Best Bet is Not to Play
Gambling is not inherently bad, but it should be enjoyed in moderation. The only surefire way to never lose is to never play, but you should feel free to enjoy yourself every now and then. Good, strong advice is to never keep betting to recover the money you’ve lost. It always costs more to play again, but it’s free to walk away.
New sports betting apps may bring the fun gambling conveniently right to your smartphone, but it’s probably best to leave it at the casino.
If you believe you or a loved one may be experiencing gambling addiction or are having concerns related to gambling, you can contact The Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117 or visit michigan.gov/problemgambling