UI students and mental health professionals weigh in on sports betting


The number of Americans placing bets is growing and University of Iowa students are joining them.

According to Forbesthe number of American adults regularly betting on sports has increased from 5% to 12% in 2021. Americans bet an estimated $3.1 billion during March Madness.

Professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB, which once opposed sports betting, are now partnering with online betting companies. Online betting services spent over $700 million on TV ads in 2021, up from $292 million in 2020.

Heidi Schmitt, staff therapist at the Unemployment Insurance Counseling Service, said that because the brain doesn’t finish developing until people are in their 20s, younger people tend to be more impulsive.

Heavy advertising from sports betting companies can potentially be problematic for addicts trying to quit, Schmitt said. She added that social ties and sometimes social pressure can contribute to why betting is becoming more common among young people.

“Could they stop if they wanted to?” Does it have a negative impact on their life? What impact does this have on their relationships? What are the financial stressors or resulting stress? I think it’s contextual for each person,” she said.

Pete Ruden, associate editor of The Action Network, a sports media company that primarily focuses on sports betting, said sports betting differs from casino games like blackjack or slots because of its unpredictability. and the skill level involved.

“There’s so much research on sports betting that I didn’t realize when I was in college,” he said, “Since I started training in real-world, advanced stats and advanced analytics have sort of been my go-to’s.

When betting on football, Ruden now looks at more advanced stats such as Offensive Hit Rate instead of stats such as yards per play.

“I think it’s that kind of research, that kind of deep diving that will help you in some way,” he said.

While there are things players can do to give themselves better odds, Ruden said betting successfully is always a challenge.

“Going .500 isn’t easy and you’ll usually need a 53% win percentage to really profit,” he said.

Data visualization by Lillian Poulsen/The Daily Iowan

Andrew Brandt, a former Green Bay Packers executive and director of Villanova University’s Moorad Center for the Study of Sports Law, said in a Vox article that the gaming industry is looking for younger audiences. .

Third-year UI student Joe Wilson said he started betting when he was 18, before he was legally allowed to. Now 21, Wilson said he wagered about $228,000 over three years and won about $230,000, bringing him a net income of about $2,000.

“I bet between $200 and $350 a day,” he said. “It’s seven days a week and on weekends you could probably double that amount wagered.”

Wilson mainly bets online, but also visits the Riverside Casino two or three times a week, he said.

He started by betting mainly on the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL. When the pandemic started, he turned to esports, as well as overseas sports like cricket and table tennis.

Now, he said he mainly bets on college football and college basketball, citing that college sports are where the most money can be made.

Wilson said his betting tendencies have hampered his finances at times, but not to an extreme degree. He said there were times when he had to borrow money from friends and vice versa, as well as times when he had to limit his grocery budget.

On the other side of the coin, Wilson said there have been good weeks where his bet has allowed him to go out to eat a few more times or grab another drink at a bar.

While Wilson enjoys betting, he understands the risks involved and what it can do to people in terms of addictions and financial hardship.

“There’s no doubt that more people lose than they win,” he said. “Every pound is very, very profitable. And I would say you’re prepared to lose. There are very, very few long-term profitable sports players.

Data visualization by Lillian Poulsen/The Daily Iowan

Wilson said as he matured, he got better at taking breaks from betting.

“I know for a fact that I could quit,” he said. “I have that kind of willpower. But…I would never want to stop. Even if you have as little as a penny on a game, it makes it a lot more entertaining and easier to use.

Jacob Bruss, a fourth-year student at Iowa State University, said he got into sports betting in the fall of 2021 due to a promotion that would award money to him and to the friend who had recommended the application to him.

Bruss said he doesn’t bet often and rarely bets more than $5. The maximum he has won on a single bet is $200, he said, which he won in a Buccaneers game last season.

“Personally, I do it more as a community thing,” he said. “I think it adds a bit more fun to watching the game with people.”

Editor’s note: Pete Ruden previously worked for The Iowan Daily when he was a student at the University of Iowa.


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