Wednesday, March 15, 2023

I'd Wager You've Heard About This

According to all the local newspapers, as well as local TV & radio, this past Friday was a BIG day. It was the day when online sports betting finally arrived in Massachusetts-- or as Associated Press reporter Steve LeBlanc referred to us, "sports-crazed Massachusetts." And evidently, the timing could not have been more perfect. "Massachusetts sports fans raced to their cellphones to begin placing bets, as the state allowed online sports wagering just days ahead of next week’s start of the NCAA basketball tournaments."

He wasn't exaggerating. According to Channel 4 in Boston, more than 400,000 fans in Massachusetts signed up for mobile sports betting accounts after the launch. And the Boston Globe reported that "over the first weekend of mobile wagering, Massachusetts bettors invested far more time placing bets than did those in similarly sized states." And the Worcester Telegram reported that "In-person betting began at the end of January, but mobile betting is expected to quickly become the dominant method of sports wagering here."

And then came the barrage of ads. Endless radio, TV, and online ads. Ads that showed excited, happy people (including many people of color), all betting on their favorite sport from the comfort of their couch. And not just betting on which team will win. Betting on outcomes within the game, like choosing a certain NFL football player and betting that he will score a touchdown, or betting that a certain NBA basketball player will score more three-pointers than he did previously. The possibilities are endless, and all the ads make it seem like so much fun. 

But the hard-sell is making me nervous. I understand the state of Massachusetts, along with the casinos, and the sports betting companies like FanDuel & DraftKings, will make lots of money from in person and online betting. And some of the fans may make a few bucks too. But let's be honest: most will not. And rather than being fun and exciting, gambling can quickly become addictive. I'm always amused when I see companies that advertise booze saying in their ad to "drink responsibly"-- okay fine, if you're a casual drinker, you probably will; but it's an addictive product, and some folks will be doing the opposite from drinking responsibly. And the more they use the product, the more the companies that provide it make a profit. Ditto for gambling-- I see the disclaimer about "if you think you have a problem, you can call this hotline for help." But few addicts will admit they have a problem. They'll just keep gambling, hoping to win back what they lost.      

I'm not trying to be a curmudgeon. But I admit I'm one of those folks who fails to see the benefit of gambling. Yes, I've bought a scratch ticket now and then, and I won $40 bucks in a slot machine in Vegas once-- but I've also seen folks who spend their entire paycheck buying scratch tickets, or who get to the slot machines and lose every cent they have. Yet, we're encouraging folks to bet online, and telling them it's safe and easy. And as much as various government officials insist that teens won't be allowed to bet, and that protections are in place to keep online betting from being abused, why do I think it won't take long before some folks (including teens) will find ways around the guardrails?

Like I said, the hard sell is making me nervous. It's also taking away from the joy and the beauty of sports. If everything is reduced to a transaction (bet on this play, bet on this outcome), how do you just relax and enjoy the game? I truly don't understand why folks can't spend some time cheering for their favorite team without turning it into a bunch of opportunities to place another bet. I'm sure there are folks who are reading this and think I'm totally wrong, so please explain to me what the benefit of online sports betting is. To me, the downside is more worrisome than any upside. But I'm willing to bet that some of you will disagree...


  1. Definitely Concur Donna .not a gambler myself but i was astonished how full Betting Shops
    Are in the UK when I pass them

  2. Totally agree with your concerns and reasons why!! Blessings on you Donna!