Are the risks of sports gambling worth the reward?

Are the risks of sports gambling worth the reward?

Chris Farrell and Matthew Alvarez

It’s been four years since the Supreme Court of the United States legalized sports gambling in 2018. Since then, 35 states and Washington D.C. have made sports betting legal for their residents and all who visit.

Betting online has also evolved. If you live in a state where sports betting is legal, you can download a variety of betting apps to get in the game.

If you don’t know how or where to start, it’s likely an advertisement will tell you: Sports gambling ads are rampant in states where it’s legalized. The ads are often celebrity endorsed, make betting look easy and entice people with the possibility of winning a large amount of money.

Sports gambling is not legal in Minnesota, but that might change with a bill in the Minnesota Legislature aimed at legalizing sports betting. A Minnesota poll last year also found that 48 percent of Minnesotans are in favor of legalized sports gambling.

As support for Minnesotans to wager on sports grows, so does the normalization of gambling across the country.

Guest host Chris Farrell talks about the rapid growth of sports betting, the mental health risks for young adults and how sports gambling can quickly spiral into addiction.

For information on problem gambling, or if you need to seek help, you can call 800-333-HOPE or visit


Speaking the Language

Speaking the Language

MNAPG Northern Light Spring 2022

With sports betting consuming our airwaves, it may be helpful for treatment providers to be familiar with sports betting jargon. Here are some common terms used in sports gambling.

  • Action – A bet or wager.
  • Against the spread – The result of a game including the point spread.
  • Bad beat – A bet that looks like the bettor is going to win but doesn’t.
  • Book (Sportsbook) – A place where someone can bet on the outcome of sporting events.
  • Buck – A $100 bet.
  • Chalk – The favorite in a game.
  • Consensus – Percentage of the betting public on each side of a game. Some bettors will bet against the “public money” (whichever team more bettors have placed their bets on).
  • Cover – The betting outcome on a point spread bet. For a favorite to cover, it must win by a number higher than the spread. An underdog can cover by losing by a number less than the spread or by winning the game outright.
  • Dime – A $1,000 bet.
  • Dollar – A $100 bet.
  • Edge – The advantage a bettor has before a bet is placed.
  • Even (even money) – A $100 bet to win $100.
  • Favorite – A team favored to win a game.
  • Future bets – A bet on events that will happen further in the future, like who will win a division or who will win a championship well in advance.
  • Handle – The total amount of money wagered on a game.
  • Handicapping – Researching sports statistics to pick winners.
  • Hedging – Betting opposite of a previous bet to guarantee winning at least a small amount of money.
  • Hook – A half-point in the spread.
  • In-game wagers – Bets made after a game has started.
  • Juice – A commission books win on each bet.
  • Limit – The maximum allowed wager on a single bet.
  • Lock – A large favorite.
  • Long shot – A large underdog.
  • Moneyline bet – A bet made if a team will win or lose outright with no point spread.
  • Nickel – A $500 bet.
  • No action – A game that is no longer taking bets and all wagers are refunded.
  • Oddsmaker (linemaker) – Someone who sets the opening line on a game.
  • Off the board – A game bettors cannot wager on.
  • Over – The combined score of two teams is more than what the sportsbook set.
  • Parlay – A bet that combines multiple games for a higher payout. The more games, the higher the risk but the greater the payout. In order for the parlay to win, each game must win or push (tie). If any of the games lose, the entire wager loses.
  • Pick’em – A game with no favorite or underdog.
  • Point spread – Margin of victory set by oddsmakers to attract bets action on both the favorite and the underdog. A favorite must win by a number higher than the point spread to cover the spread. An underdog can cover by losing by a number less than the spread or by winning the game outright.
  • Puckline – Hockey has a point spread of -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.
  • Proposition bets (prop) – A bet on anything that is not directly tied to the outcome of the game. For example, it can be the first team or the first player to score in a game.
  • Push – When neither team covers the spread (the actual margin of victory lands exactly on the spread), no one wins the bet and all wagers are refunded.
  • Runline – Baseball has a point spread of -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.
  • Sharp (wiseguy) – A professional sports bettor.
  • Steam – A quick change on a line due to heavy wagering.
  • Taking the points – Betting an underdog against the spread.
  • Teaser – Similar to spreads, teasers are favored towards the bettor but have a lower payout.
  • Total bet (over/under) – A bet on the combined number of points scored by both teams in a game, including overtime/extra innings.
  • Under – The combined score of two teams is less than what the sportsbook set.
  • Underdog (dog) – A team not favored to win a game.
  • Wager – A get placed at a sportsbook.
The Season of Sports Gambling

The Season of Sports Gambling

MNAPG Northern Light Spring 2022

The Super Bowl and March Madness, which take place in February and (primarily) March, respectively, are the most popular sports betting events in the U.S. With the legalization of sports gambling in many states, both events experienced record wagers. Here’s a snapshot of each event.

Super Bowl LVI

Information about betting activity for the Super Bowl is not yet complete, but it’s clear that wagering beat out the previous record from 2021. According to, as of April 4, 14 states reported a combined $588.1 million in handle (amount of money wagered) and $45.9 million in revenue. This compares to $486.5 million in handle and $43 million in revenue from 17 legal jurisdictions in 2021. Notably, even states with neighboring states that legalized sports gambling since last year saw a considerable year-to-year increase.

NCAA Basketball Tournament

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament received more betting action than ever before. According to, prior to the Final Four games, 31 percent of Americans aged 21 to 64 placed bets on tournament games, with about two in three saying they bet more this year than on any previous tournaments.

Louie Anderson and Celebrity Gambling Behavior

Louie Anderson and Celebrity Gambling Behavior

MNAPG Northern Light Spring 2022

In January, Minnesota’s Louie Anderson, a nationally beloved comedian, died. His death was felt in comedy circles as well as among Minnesotans who took pride in a local boy making it big.

As with all of us, however, he had his human frailties. He also made an impact on the recovery and addiction community, where he was known for his candid stories about growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father, but he also had a gambling problem.

In a 2016 interview, < link to> when Louie was in the thick of his gambling addiction, he shared the story of a night when he lost $80,000 in Los Angeles, then drove to Las Vegas and won $100,000 in the middle of the night, making it back to Los Angeles in time to film a television commercial the very next morning. The interviewers seem more entertained by the story than interested in exploring his gambling addiction.

Depending on the news outlet, Louie was either a big-time, revered gambler —or he had a gambling problem. Indeed, the perceptions of gambling based on celebrity behavior can be deceiving.

Stories of celebrity gambling can normalize, if not trivialize, how destructive the activity can be. While the wealth amassed by many celebrities can appear to minimize the magnitude of their gambling, it’s clear that gambling can — and has — become a problem for some. Indeed, we know that gambling addiction is an equal opportunity employer and can affect virtually anyone – men or women, young or old, and those from every religion, race and socio-economic background. Sadly, that includes celebrities.

Section from Season of Sports Betting

Other notable findings detailed by, which were based on data from an online study conducted by National Research Group, included the following:

  • Thirty-nine percent of bettors reported that they wagered a total of at least $250. (Sixty-three percent reported betting at least $100.)
  • Sixty percent of people who bet on this year’s NCAA tournament did not fill out the traditional bracket.
  • Fifty-four percent of bettors said that legalized online sports betting has made them less interested in brackets.
  • Sixty-five percent said that the amount they wagered this year has been the most they’ve ever bet on an NCAA tournament.
  • Six percent of bettors wagered more than $1,000 while sixteen percent wagered between $500 and $999.
  • The majority of bettors (63 percent) bet on between three and 10 games.
  • Fifty-four percent placed a wager on the first round, with declining percentages betting on succeeding rounds.
  • Thirty-nine percent made moneyline bets (straight bets on winners and losers) while twenty-five percent wagered on same-game parlays (multiple bets or “legs” of a game).

While the article was published prior to the Final Four weekend, betting on the last three games was expected to be quite heavy, as the four teams comprising the Final Four were among the most heavily bet in the tournament.

Is This the Year Minnesota Legalizes Sports Betting

Is This the Year Minnesota Legalizes Sports Betting

MNAPG Northern Light Spring 2022

As the legislature paused for its spring recess, two bills, HF 778 and SF 574, were making their way through committees on the House and Senate sides, respectively. The two bills embraced different approaches.

HF 778, authored by Rep. Zack Stephenson, would create two master mobile sport betting licenses. One would be held by a tribal entity comprised of members of the Ojibwe Indian tribe or an entity owned by the tribe. The second would be held by a tribal entity comprised of Dakota Indian tribes or an entity wholly owned by the Indian tribe, and include up to eleven mobile sports betting operator licenses. The proposed tax rate is 10% on sports betting wagers placed online through a website or mobile application. Any wagers made on Indian lands are not subject to taxation. As sovereign nations, they do not fall under the same regulatory obligations as state and commercial entities.

As the bill stands today, mobile sports betting would only be allowed for those 21 years old and older. Legalized activities would include athletic events, esport events, college sports events or other events approved by the commissioner. Events prohibited or not covered by this legislation include: horseracing (legal under separate legislation), esports or athletic competitions organized by elementary, middle schools and high schools, or any youth activity sport league or fantasy sports contests.

The types of betting allowed would include:

º single game bets

º futures bets

º teaser bets

º parlay bets

º over-under bets

º moneyline bets

º in-game betting

º proposition bets

º straight bets

º exchange wagering

º futures bets placed on end-of-the-season standings, awards or statistics

º any other bets approved by the commissioner

Tax revenue collected would be distributed to the following:

1. Ten percent to the Public Safety Commission Division of Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement to oversee regulatory actions

2. Forty percent towards the problem gambling programming — 20% to the Department of Human Services and 20% to the state affiliate of National Council on Problem Gambling (MNAPG)

3. Fifty percent to amateur sports grants to promote integrity and participation of amateur sports.

MNAPG successfully added comprehensive problem gambling prevention education as a part of a young athletes’ education. Currently, no prevention material on problem gambling is offered in the schools. This would at least open the door to reaching this impressionable group. Providing an early foundational understanding to the potential harms of gambling may help in preventing future problems.

MNAPG was also successful in adding esports and being named recipient of 20% of the tax revenue generated by sports betting. We were also able to add a provision to study all gambling behavior and experiences of those aged 18 to 35. This will shed some new light on how, why and where this vulnerable age group gambles and help shape future prevention materials.

Currently, under the future rulemaking process, there would be standards to address and prevent compulsive and problem gambling. MNAPG doesn’t find this statement satisfactory and contributed more language for responsible gambling best practices, advertising and consumer disclosures for further consideration.

SF 574, authored by Senator Roger Chamberlain, resembles earlier bills submitted in past sessions with minimal language about responsible gambling programs, any mention of esports or fantasy sports, and providing just 1% of tax revenue generated toward problem gambling programs, of which the state affiliate of NCPG would receive ½%. This is the current arrangement we have with charitable gambling tax revenue.

The proposed tax rate is 6.75%. In this bill, a sports pool operator license could be provided to a federally recognized Indian tribe or a group of tribes located in Minnesota for wagering that takes place on tribal land, to a class A racetrack, or to an entity that provides an electronic sports wagering platform through a website or mobile application. There are no limitations to licenses provided.

This bill would also provide some tax relief to charitable gambling.

There appears to be more favorable aspects to the House bill than to the Senate’s. There are still many hurdles to jump and, in all likelihood, once the bills are combined it’s anyone’s guess as to which items will remain. We’ll certainly know more by the time the summer issue of Northern Light goes to press.

THE WAGER: Reddit and the NFL: What can an online support community for problem gambling tell us about the impact of sports betting legalization?

THE WAGER: Reddit and the NFL: What can an online support community for problem gambling tell us about the impact of sports betting legalization?

Read the original article on The Basis website HERE

By Caitlyn Fong, MPH

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which previously outlawed sports betting in most of the United States, was repealed in 2018 by the Supreme Court. Since then, legalized sports betting has grown rapidly, with the majority of states having active legal sports betting or pending legislation to legalize sports betting. Some studies have suggested a link between sports betting and gambling harm. For sports bettors experiencing gambling-related harms, online communities can be a source of self-help information and mutual support. This week, The WAGER reviews a study by Mark van der Maas and colleagues that analyzed how posts in an online mutual support community for problem gambling have changed with the expansion of legalized sports betting.

What was the research question?
How did the volume and content of an online mutual support community for problem gambling change after the repeal of PASPA and subsequent expansion of legalized sports betting?

What did the researchers do?
The researchers collected posts from the r/problemgambling subreddit (a message board on from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2020. Using interrupted time series analysis, they compared the number of posts per week before, during, and after June 1, 2018 (the first day that states other than Nevada were able to initiate legal sports betting programs).

The researchers also analyzed 558 original posts from 75 unique, randomly-selected days and all 17,041 post titles from the study period. They used thematic analysis to examine the content of the selected posts and the post titles for common themes.

What did they find?
From January 1, 2016 to June 1, 2018, message board activity grew at an average of 0.14 posts per week (see Figure). During the weeks immediately following June 1, 2018, there was an average increase of 24.2 posts per week. Following that jump in posts, message board activity sustained an increase of 0.79 posts per week, which is more than five times the pre-June 1 activity rate.

After June 1, 2018, it also became more common for posts to mention American major league sports, such as Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), and especially the National Football League (NFL). During 2019 and 2020, posts were more likely to encourage sobriety or express worry about abstinence from gambling as the start of the NFL season approached and as the Super Bowl date neared.

Figure. Average increase in posts per week on the r/problemgambling subreddit from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020. Click image to enlarge.

Why do these findings matter?
The rise in number of posts and references to American major league sports indicate an increased need for treatment and support of people experiencing gambling harm, especially during the NFL season. Online mutual support communities might also be an effective way to encourage formal treatment as an option and provide relapse prevention strategies. However, people who are concerned about their gambling should also consider seeking professional help from clinicians or using evidence-based self-help resources, as some research has identified potential risks of help seeking in online communities, such as misinformation or triggering content.

Every study has limitations. What are the limitations in this study?
Most posts did not mention a specific form of gambling, so it cannot be determined whether the increase in post activity was due to greater exposure to or experience with sports betting. Reddit users tend to be younger and predominantly male, and only about half of them are based in the United States, so the study might not be representative of the United States population. As a result, the findings may also not be generalizable to people outside of the Reddit online community.

For more information:
Do you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem? Visit the National Council on Problem Gambling for screening tools and resources. For additional resources, including gambling and self-help tools, please visit our Addiction Resources page.

— Caitlyn Fong, MPH