With major sports such as the NFL and NHL now well underway, it can be all too easy to place a significant amount of bets on these games, and spend more money than intended. Let’s take a closer look at what sports betting is, the risks involved, and how to quit betting on sports.
What is Sports Betting?
Sports betting is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world today, with 12% of Americans betting at least once a week.
Sports betting is now legal in 32 states in the U.S., with more states predicted to join. Sports fans generally feel more inclined to bet on sports if it is legal in their state. FanDuel and DraftKings are the two most popular sportsbooks in the U.S., and make up over two-thirds of the market share.
Why Do People Bet on Sports?
People bet on sports for a variety of reasons, the most common include the following:
- Entertainment - Betting on sports can cause the viewer to be more engaged in the game. The rush and excitement increases when you have money on the line.
- Social Influences - People see other people betting on sports, having a good time, and they want to be a part of it. It can be something for friends to bond over, and an activity that can be shared.
- Competition - Many people enjoy sports betting for the thrill, and the sense of competition with themselves or their friends. Many sports bettors are competitive athletes and thrive on competition.
- Money - Many people see sports betting as an easy way to make some extra cash. Although it’s possible to make some money on your bets, you should never rely on it as a source of income. The amount of money won or lost from sports betting can be extremely fluid and unpredictable.
- Ease of Placing Bets - Betting on sports is easier than ever with the rise of online sportsbooks and betting apps.
Is Sports Betting Gambling?
Sports betting is often not considered to be a form of gambling, which is partially why it is so normalized. However, sports betting is gambling, because you are placing a wager on an outcome that is unknown. No matter how familiar you are with the sport or the team, you cannot predict the outcome of the game.
Is Sports Betting Worse Than Traditional Gambling?
Sports betting is more normalized, meaning there is less of a stigma surrounding this type of gambling. Many people don’t see it as an issue of any sort since everyone else is doing it as well. This increases the likelihood that someone could become hooked on sports gambling and not recognize it as a problem.
Sports betting differs from traditional casino games such as slots, since there is some thought and skill required.
Dangers of Sports Betting
No matter how socially acceptable sports betting may be, it always comes with a risk.
Bets are weighted in favor of the house: The sportsbook always has an edge over the player by making more bets than they have players who want to wager with them. They make the less likely outcome a better payout, hoping to make money off of the bettor’s losses. This allows them to make more profit from each bet and eventually win more overall.
Getting emotions involved: Many gamblers fall prey to what's called "narrative bias." This means that we tend not to think rationally when it comes time for decisions like betting or investing - we instead rely on our emotional state (e.g., how excited we are about the game) or uninformed opinions (from friends, family members, etc.).
The majority of bettors also bet on their favorite teams more often than other teams, even if their team may not be projected to win.
There is no such thing as a “safe bet.” Every bet comes with a risk, since the outcome is not guaranteed.
Why is Sports Betting Addictive?
Sports bettors are 3 times more likely to develop gambling addiction than other gamblers. What makes it so addictive? Sports betting, like other forms of gambling, actually change how your brain works. This happens because gambling creates a greater release of dopamine in the brain, which teaches the brain that this behavior should be repeated.
Are You a Professional Sports Bettor?
Many people fall into the illusion that they are professional sports bettors, since sports betting requires a certain amount of research and understanding of sports. However, in most cases, those who believe they are professional sports bettors actually have a severe gambling problem.
If you are truly a professional gambler, you will have no issue setting a spending limit and sticking to it, and don’t let gambling affect other areas of your life.
Signs of a Sports Betting Addiction
A sports betting addiction can have detrimental effects on various aspects of your life, and can quickly spiral out of control. Left untreated, sports betting can lead to serious mental health issues, relationship problems, debt, and more.
Here are a few signs you or someone you know are addicted to sports betting.
- Unable to control the amount you spend on betting
- Placing bets as an escape from difficult situations or emotions
- Building up a tolerance to betting (having to wager larger amounts to feel the same excitement)
- Chasing your losses by wagering larger amounts of money
- Betting is negatively affecting other areas of your life (work, relationships, etc.)
- Getting into debt
How to Overcome a Sports Betting Addiction
Once sports betting becomes a full-fledged addiction, it can be very difficult to quit.
- Understand the severity of the problem - Many people never get help for a gambling problem, because they don’t understand that it is a serious problem that requires professional treatment. In order to overcome a sports betting addiction, you need to be committed to recovery.
- Stay busy - If you are addicted to sports betting, you need to replace this activity with other, healthier alternatives in order to quit successfully. Keep your mind and body occupied. Gambling produces a heightened level of dopamine in the brain, and when you suddenly quit gambling, your brain will experience a dopamine deficiency if it’s not replaced with another stimulating activity.
- Understand your triggers - Everyone has triggers that lead them to gamble compulsively. This may be an underlying mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression, or it could be a result of relational or financial stress. Whatever it may be, it’s important to address the underlying issues and find more effective ways of coping.
- Remove betting sites and apps - Make it more difficult for yourself to place bets by removing any mobile apps, and blocking certain websites. Although this is not an immediate fix, it makes it easier to resist the temptation to bet when it isn’t right at your fingertips.
- Get professional help - Attempting to quit something you are addicted to on your own will power is an immensely difficult feat. Your addiction needs to be treated with the same urgency as any other major health issue, and you need professionals to help guide you through the recovery process.
Tips for Responsible Sports Betting
Many people can casually bet on sports without ever becoming addicted. However, it’s always important to bet responsibly to ensure that you don’t fall into addiction.
- Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the rules of the game. Betting without knowing the basics can lead to big losses later on down the line.
- Always remember that money is never guaranteed in sports - whether you're playing by yourself or with other people. Even if your team appears to be winning, don't put all your eggs in one basket!
- Keep track of how much you're spending and how much money you've won/lost so far - this will help prevent any major financial setbacks down the line.If these basic precautions are followed, anyone can enjoy rooting for their favorite team while making some extra cash along the way!
Treatment for Sports Betting Addiction
If you are struggling with a sports betting addiction, you are not alone and there is help available for you. At Algamus Gambling Treatment Services, we have over 30 years of treating disorder gamblers with all types of gambling addiction - including sports betting addiction.
We understand the grip that gambling can have on a person, and we understand the work and dedication it takes to overcome a gambling addiction.
Learn more about our residential gambling treatment program, or contact our gambling addiction specialists for more information. For specific questions about this topic, leave a comment below.
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