Addiction Experts Fear the Fallout if California Legalizes Sports Betting

by | Oct 5, 2022 | Health

Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that states could legalize betting on sports, California — with 40 million people and numerous professional teams — has been the great white whale, eluding gambling companies and casino-hosting tribal communities. At stake is $3.1 billion in annual revenue, according to one industry consulting firm.

It’s little surprise, then, that voters will face not one but two ballot propositions this fall aimed at capturing California’s sports betting market. Although neither appears to have strong public support, gambling addiction experts are worried about one far more than the other.

Proposition 26, supported by some of the state’s largest tribal casino owners, would permit sports betting, but only within existing brick-and-mortar establishments that already offer gambling and at horse-racing venues. By contrast, Proposition 27, designed and funded by such national corporate gambling sites as DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM, would legalize online sports betting, essentially opening the door for people to bet on games — and the athletes and plays within them — whether they’re sitting in the bleachers or on a couch.

Each measure would likely increase instances of problem gambling and gambling addiction, but mental health experts say the sheer ease of online betting — on scores, player point totals, the number of penalties in a game, and almost everything else connected to a sporting event — increases the chance for trouble.

“You don’t get addicted to full-season fantasy football; you get addicted to in-game betting,” said Dr. Timothy Fong, a psychiatrist and co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program. “Instead of one bet on the Rams-Chargers game, I now can make an infinite amount right from my phone. …

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