The one thing that keeps the average Joe or Jane from betting on their favorite team, is the fear of lost money. It’s a simple demotivation, right? It should be. However, as the floodgates of legalized sports betting have opened wide, “news reports” celebrating wins and losses alike are spilling into the streets of mainstream America.
Celebrating losses? Yes, that’s what appears to be happening. And it’s problematic for the millions of at-risk gamblers in the United States because it removes the concept of consequence from the equation.
Let’s have a look at a few examples.
After the 2023 NCAA CFP National Championship game, CBS jumped on the story about Jim McIngvale’s $9 million sports betting loss.
He seems pretty happy, doesn’t he? Furthermore, the article is peppered with very concerning quotes:
“I’ll take about five seconds to get over this and look forward to the next adventure […] A gambler has to be resilient. You’ve gotta know that they’re gonna knock you down and knock you down a lot…We’ll regroup and go forward again.”
“But let’s not feel too bad for McIngvale. The TCU loss comes after “Mattress Mack” won a whopping $75 million when the Houston Astros won the 2022 World Series. It is the largest payout in sports betting history. Oh, and McIngvale also wagered $2.5 million on the University of Houston men’s basketball team to win the NCAA Tournament in April, so he still has that bet alive.”CBS Sports
The writer didn’t exactly weave a story about the consequence of sports betting. Instead, it reads more like a tale which encourages one to get back on the proverbial horse. And the nearest horse track is just a smartphone app tap away.
This phenomenon has been occurring all football season long. Soon after the conclusion of NFL Week 1, CNBC’s Make It (which uses the tagline “Get smarter about how you earn, save and spend your money…”) published this headline:
What’s the supposed silver lining on Americans losing $6 million early in the NFL season?
“As for us losers, there’s one silver lining: The IRS allows gamblers to deduct their losses — with a few important caveats.”
“Last time I was at a sportsbook in Vegas, a gentleman was roaming the room asking for losing tickets before frustrated bettors ripped them up or trashed them — he even offered to exchange free drink coupons for my losing slips. It turned out he’d hit a $100,000 parlay early in the year and planned to use this collection of losing bets to offset his winnings.“CNBC’s Make It
The lesson learned is not so much about the consequence of gambling, but how to mitigate the bleed. The use of “silver lining” in the headline and content is gold to a gambler looking for anything to justify their losses.
Remember when the media once vilified Pete Rose for betting on the Reds? Now that sports betting is legal in Ohio, the American public is being treated to stories that feature Rose smiling wide as he makes the state’s first wager:
With the Cincinnati Reds having the longest odds (+30,000, at press) to win the 2023 MLB World Series, another near-certain loss is being treated as an amusing anecdote.
There are also underlying tones to consider in supposedly lighthearted news on sports betting:
For the uninitiated, Shaquille O’Neal has been linked to problematic sports betting advertising and has a long history of betting, including a $1 million wager on MMA:
We agree that it’s funny to watch Shaq scarf down frog legs after losing a bet on the 2023 CFB Championship, but even news about “friendly wagers” feeds the culture of gambling in the USA.
Ultimately, one cannot fault sportsbooks and casinos for putting a spin on losses. That’s their job, so to speak. But when the media continues to bombard the public with stories that make light of consequence, a dangerous culture is fostered in a country that counts millions of at-risk gamblers in its population.
*Tips to defend against increased exposure to gambling in media: 5 Steps to Quitting Problem Gambling
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