Perspective: The Growing Risks of Sports Gambling

by Evan Joseph ‘23

Televised sports have played a big role in entertainment for a long time and therefore people are always trying to find new ways to interact and enjoy them. Recently, sports betting has skyrocketed in popularity as more virtual sports betting platforms come online. Sports gambling allows fans to have a deeper connection with sports by betting their own money on players and team success (or failure). Initially, a more personal connection with sports sounds like a good thing, but the increased popularity of sports betting actually has led to conflicts between athletes, sports clubs, and the fans because of the tension created by the money these fans are putting on games. The growing popularity of sports gambling could be more harmful than helpful for the sports world.

Sports betting has caused problems on all levels of sports, which will only increase in frequency as the market grows from its already $9 billion value, according to Front Office Sports. ESPN’s sports analyst Adrian Wojnarowski commented on an interaction between Boston Celtics fans and Nets guard Kyrie Irving where Irving gave the fans his middle finger and said he did it because the fans were heckling him about their own sports bets. Wojnarowski said he believes such incidents will continue to happen as the sports gambling industry grows. The increased passion in fans have because of their bets could lead to a toxic relationship between fans and athletes and as the industry grows, more instances of aggression from fans are likely to occur.

As sports betting becomes more convenient and fans are able to gamble 24 hours a day on their mobile devices, gambling problems and addictions are guaranteed to increase. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) reported that a study of sports gamblers found that 16 percent of online sports betters met clinical criteria for gambling disorder and another 13 percent showed signs that would classify them as having gambling problems. As more and more Americans gamble, the dangers that the athletes themselves will want in the action will grow. But this inherent risk is nothing new, and the infamous Black Sox scandal was an early sign of the possible consequences of sports gambling. In the 1919 World Series between the Chicago White Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, eight White Sox players were accused of throwing the World Series in exchange for money from a sports gambling syndicate.

Although the MLB and other major sports leagues have implemented strict restrictions on sports gambling so instances like this don’t reoccur, online sports gambling allows a new array of ways for athletes to gamble anonymously. In the NFL, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was recently caught attempting such sports bets. When the NFL found out about Ridley’s bets, they issued him a suspension spanning over the entire 2022-2023 season. This is only the most recent example of the risks to the integrity of popular sports as the popularity of sports betting grows.
USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe celebrates goal in 2019 World Cup Final.Google Images