America’s “Gamble on Anything” Culture is a Problem

In a summer of 2023 problem gambling news release, we reported on how bookmakers posted betting odds for a famous rapper’s double murder trial verdict. This is just one example of the “gamble on anything” culture that has been been allowed to brew in America since the U.S. Supreme Court lifted than ban on sports betting in 2018. Types of wagers such as murder trial verdicts fall under the classification of proposition bets (or novelty bets) that are a product of online sportsbooks. Of course, not all of them are so crass, as some prop bets appear innocuous and fun on the surface. The Atlantic recently reported on the diversity of these wagers:

“These days, you can bet on pretty much anything. You can bet on flight delays and COVID variants and gas prices. You can bet on whether the government will shut down and whether a natural disaster will strike San Francisco and whether Oppenheimer will win Best Adapted Screenplay. You can bet on the 2024 Republican vice-presidential nominee and the next James Bond. You can bet on which celebrity will start an OnlyFans account (money’s on Kim Kardashian) and which will be abducted first if aliens attack (money’s on Elon Musk). You can bet on whether McDonald’s will, at long last, restore onion nuggets to its menu. For some reason, you can even bet on the lottery.”

The Atlantic (Oct 13 2023)

Yes, that’s right, you can even gamble on who will win when gambling on the lottery. Wrap your head around that for a moment.

America can officially bet on anything, and it’s not as quirky nor anecdotal as much of the media likes to report on. The country is in the midst of a problem gambling crisis. Pop-culture proposition odds, novelty bets, and the like only serve to feed the growing mass of gamblers in the nation. Given that 2% of the population already struggles with gambling disorder we really don’t need to entice them with seemingly harmless opportunities to keep rolling the dice. Below is a breakdown of why there’s nothing amusing or benign about novelty odds that are currently being fed to vulnerable Americans.

How Bookmakers Offering Odds on Everything is Contributing to the Problem Gambling Crisis in America

No Downtime for Seasonal Sports Bettors

Most sports bettors begin as seasonal gamblers. They bet on their favorite leagues as those are the ones they are the most knowledgable about. When a given season is over, their betting behavior generally subsides until the next season begins again. This puts the brakes on the activity and helps keep it from becoming habitual. The introduction of novelty betting odds changes the game on seasonality because it gamifies everything from pop-culture and current events to politics and other things that traditional sports bettors are interested in all year long. This increases the frequency of which they gamble and the potential for concerning habitual behavior if formed.

Gateway for Non-Gamblers

Entertainment props and novelty odds catch the attention of vulnerable Americans who may not be interested in traditional casino gambling and sports betting. They provide the general public the opportunity to use a sportsbook to bet on aforementioned political elections, celebrity activities, and other pop-culture occurrences. Once bookmakers have their hooks in someone who signed up to wager on one of these fun props, they launch a series of email campaigns. These campaigns encourage new members (who didn’t come for sports) to try their hand at betting on popular events such as March Madness or the NFL Super Bowl. Consequently, the ability to gamble on anything (no matter how whimsical it may seem) becomes the gateway to more serious sports betting habit.

It’s How Kids Get Started

This carries over from the gateway concept above but deserves separate focus given how much more impressionable our nation’s youth are when compared to the rest of the population. A recent report finds that around 70 percent of high-school students have gambled in the past year, and 14 to 19 percent either fit the criteria of having a gambling problem or are showing “signs of losing control”. Teens are greatly influenced by celebrities and pop-culture, which is exactly what a large portion of proposition bets are based upon. Who else would be so greatly invested in the murder trial outcome of a famous rapper or who Pete Davidson will date next? Teens have found ways to bypass safeguards on online betting sites, but also take what’s being advertised by sportsbooks (and subsequent media coverage) to make in-person wagers amongst friends.

America already has a very concerning teenage gambling problem, and the “gamble on anything” culture can only spur it even further. Candy cigarettes were banned in the U.S. in 2009 under the FDA’s Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act, so can we not consider supposedly playful betting odds in the same vein to protect our young?

Normalizes Gambling Behavior

Everything that we’ve addressed above leads to one key point – gambling behavior has become normalized in the United States of America. With the Walt Disney Company now owning a slice of the sports betting pie is it not illogical to suggest that we can expect to see an even greater rise of entertainment and novelty props in the country. Until the Feds step in to put a cap on the ability to bet on anything, we must ensure that the dialogue surrounding the importance of problem gambling awareness is equally mainstream. Please share this article with your social circle accordingly.

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