Criminalizing Sports Betting Won’t Deter Addictions

Hayden Audette, sports editor 

It’s impossible to turn on a sporting event on TV without coming across references to gambling. During just about every commercial break, you’ll see an ad for DraftKings or FanDuel promising that you can win big money by betting on games. Betting lines also appear in most written game previews, and some broadcasters even make a point to reference betting in the middle of the game that they’re calling. 

With how ubiquitous gambling references are in sports media, it might come as a surprise to some people that it is not yet legal across the country. Currently, 14 states have yet to legalize sports betting, and Minnesota is one of them. That could soon be changing, however. According to an article in the Star Tribune, there is “an air of inevitability — even for the strongest opponents” that sports betting will be legalized soon. The article also points out that “almost half of Minnesotans favor legalized sports betting.” Despite the fact that large numbers of Minnesotans are in favor of it, there are also many people who make arguments against legal sports gambling. 

One of the most prominent arguments against legalized gambling is its addictive nature. According to The Recovery Village, “as many as 10 million Americans live with a gambling addiction.” Opponents of legal sports betting often argue that if legal gambling is expanded, then more people will become addicted and significantly harm themselves and their loved ones. On the surface this argument makes some sense, if something is made illegal, then the threat of punishment would deter people from doing it. However, as is the case with other addictions like alcoholism and drug abuse, punishment often does very little to deter those with gambling addictions from gambling. In the same article in The Recovery Village, it states that “only 21% of incarcerated individuals assessed as having gambling addiction thought that their gambling was problematic.” The threat of jail time or other punishment does not help those with gambling addictions actually overcome them. 

Keeping sports betting criminalized in the state of Minnesota wouldn’t do anything to help those who live with gambling addictions. In my opinion, a significantly better approach would be to put more money into addiction recovery programs across the state so people can address the root causes of their gambling problems. I also believe that the state should fund educational resources that teach Minnesotans about the risks of gambling so they can participate safely and avoid getting themselves into too much trouble. If the state of Minnesota would make a stronger effort to directly help people who struggle with a gambling problem rather than punishing them for it, I believe that this would result in a significant reduction in the number of people with this addiction across the state and more people able to live healthy lives.