Sports Betting Among College Students

According to a study conducted by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), three out of four college students have gambled in the past year, either legally or illegally. While the act of gambling in and of itself isn’t necessarily alarming, the NCPG also estimates that nearly 6% of college students also have a gambling problem, which is nearly double the national average for U.S adults.

The majority of sports betting takes place on mobile phones, mostly (although not exclusively) on betting apps, such as Caesar’s Sportsbook, DraftKings, and FanDuel Sportsbook.

The Rise Of Sports Betting Addiction

Following a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to legalize it, sports betting has been on the rise nationwide. Currently, sports betting is legal in 38 states, including Washington, D.C. Additionally, 26 states have legalized online sports betting, with numerous other state legislations introducing, and passing, similar laws.

The rise in popularity of sports betting has also triggered the explosion of the gambling sector. Between 2018 and 2023, more than $268 billion has been gambled legally on sports. Across all gaming sectors, sports betting has, by far, grown the fastest. To date, tax revenue on sports betting has generated nearly $4 billion.

With near record-breaking profits also comes enormous advertising budgets, the overwhelming majority of which has been spent on social media ads. While difficult to put an exact figure on, some estimates put total advertising across all social media platforms around $3 billion.

One of the platforms that’s seen the largest shares of this massive advertising budget is TikTok, where nearly half of its 135 million U.S. users are college aged students under the age of 30. A study conducted in the United Kingdom found that nearly 75% of 18-24 year olds had seen gambling ads through social media.

How Colleges Are Cashing In On Sports Betting

The rise in sports betting has given way to a rise in gambling addiction, particularly among impressionable groups like college students. It’s not just the sports betting companies that have cashed in on this opportunity; in fact, some universities have “Ceasarized” their campuses according to a New York Times investigation.

The term, coined in the investigation, refers to an effort by some universities to make their campuses resemble some elements of the world famous casino, “Caesars Palace.” The namesake also refers to colleges around the country striking deals with one of the largest online sports betting platforms, Caesars Sportsbook.

In 2021, Michigan State University signed a deal worth $8.4 million over 5 years with the betting agency, in what a member of the negotiating team called, “the largest sportsbook deal in college athletics.”

Other schools have struck deals in order to bring gambling on campus. Louisiana State University signed a similar, “multi-year, seven-figure deal” with Caesars Sportsbook nearly two months before a law to legalize sports betting went into effect in Louisiana. After signing the deal, the university sent an email encouraging participants, including some that were under 21 and were not legally eligible to gamble, to “place your first bet (and earn your first bonus).”

In 2020, the University of Colorado Boulder accepted a $1.6 million deal to promote sports betting on campus with a similar company who sweetened the deal by offering the school an additional $30 for every time someone downloaded the app using their promotional code.

To date, at least eight major universities have entered partnerships with sports-betting companies or sportsbooks, with many of these collaborations occurring in the past year and more anticipated in the future.

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Are College Students More At Risk For Sports Betting Addiction?

The deals made by these universities highlight the immense potential major gambling corporations seen in the college markets. Major universities, with their tens of thousands of young, impressionable, easy-to-reach students have long been the target of betting agencies ever since its legalization, and for good reason.

College students in particular are at a higher risk for developing sports betting or gambling addictions. This is due to what researchers from the University of Buffalo refer to as “the 5 A’s.” The 5 A’s are availability, acceptability, advertising, access, and age.

Availability

The widespread availability and ease at which college students have when it comes to sports betting. Today, sports betting can be done in a matter of seconds from a person’s phone, and with some apps even offering help or suggestions on who or what to bet on, can sometimes be done without even thinking.

Acceptability

The social acceptance of gambling. Since its legalization in 2018, sports betting has become commonplace in society. From commercials, to campuses, to social media, many people view gambling as a harmless, normal part of society.

Advertising

With a nearly $270 million budget, sports betting agencies have a nearly unlimited pool of resources for reaching young, impressionable audiences. Pair that with major university partnerships, and these conglomerates have a massive, untapped customer base.

Access

College students often have unique circumstances when it comes to spending money. According to recent estimates, nearly 43% of full-time and 81% of part-time students were enrolled in school while also working. For full-time students, especially those who live on campus, the lack of expenditures means many have more disposable income than those who live off campus.

Age

College students are synonymous with risky behavior. Young people tend to experiment more as their brains develop, and as they’re exposed to new ideas, values, people, and cultures. Pair this with the increased presence of alcohol or other substances, college students are at an especially high risk for risk-taking behaviors, such as gambling.

Signs Of A Gambling Addiction

Recognizing the signs of a sports betting addiction can be difficult, especially given its legal status. Someone who may be struggling with a sports betting or gambling addiction may justify their betting by pointing to the fact that it’s legal, while others may simply thwart the idea that sports betting addiction even exists. Whatever the case, understanding what a gambling or sports betting addiction looks like can help you identify the signs of problematic gambling in yourself or a loved one before it becomes severe.

Some common signs of a gambling addiction include:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling, such as planning gambling activities or ways to gamble more money.
  • Needing to gamble larger amounts of money in order to get the same “thrill”.
  • Trying to get back lost money by gambling (chasing losses).
  • Risking or losing important jobs, relationships, or school opportunities due to gambling.
  • Trying to cut back on gambling without success.
  • Lying to friends or family to hide gambling.
  • Gambling to escape or relieve stress.
  • Asking others for money to pay off debts.

Gambling and sports betting addiction can quickly take control of a person’s life. What can start out as simple, small dollar value bets on sporting events can spiral into compulsive behavior, which can result in serious financial and personal loss.

Find Help Today

If you or someone you know is struggling with a sports betting or gambling addiction, don’t wait to get help. While some people think an addiction to things like sports betting as “not real” or “just in your head,” the reality is that gambling disorder is a real, treatable condition.

To learn more about treatment for gambling and sports betting addiction, visit Birches Health to find out what next steps are best for you.

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Zachary Pottle

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  • Zachary Pottle earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Saint Leo University and has over three years of journalistic experience. His passion for writing has led him to a career in journalism, where he specializes in writing about stories in the pain management and healthcare industry. His main goal as a writer is to bring readers accurate, trustworthy content that serve as useful resources for bettering their lives or the lives of those around them.

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