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Sports Betting is Harming Gamblers and Athletes



INTRO

MARINE SAINT: March Madness is in full swing and the first round of both the mens and women's NCAA Sweet Sixteen teams face off tonight. 


CRISTINA MACAYA: For people who bet on sports, this is game time. The American Gaming Association estimates nearly $3 billion will be bet this year on March Madness alone. Apps like FanDuel and DraftKings are making it easier than ever for people to place bets virtually every second of a game and on athletes - even at the college level. 


SAINT: Desiree Nikfardjam (nick-far-jam) reports on the problems sports betting is creating for gamblers and athletes alike.

  

DESIREE NIKFARDJAM, BYLINE: First, let’s talk about the pressures online sports betting puts on college athletes.

 

San Diego State’s mens team is in the first of the Sweet 16 match ups…and at a press conference yesterday, coach Brian Dutcher said his players are facing a lot of pressure often directed at them as individuals. 


BRIAN DUTCHER: People complaining about how they're playing, missing shots, and they just get beat up constantly. 


NIKFARDJAM: Dutcher says one of challenges is  “proposition bets” or prop bets for short. These allow people to bet on players’ individual stats rather than the outcome of a game. 


DUTCHER: Just because they're kids with big bodies doesn't mean they're not affected by social media, by pressures outside of the small world they live in. and so whether that’s prop bets that people are texting them and posting stuff, that’s unfortunate. 


NIKFARDJAM: But for some, unfortunate doesn’t cut it. Yesterday, the head of the NCAA’s  Charlie Baker released a statement that the league is taking steps to block prop betting. But with roughly two thirds of Americans living in states where people can place minute-to-minute bets…the league is going to need the government’s help.


PAUL TONKO: We are dealing with a massive and growing public health crisis involving a known addictive product. Let me repeat that, a known addictive product.

 

NIKFARDJAM: That’s Congressman Paul Tonko. He represents New York’s 20th district which includes Albany. He’s sponsored a bill in Congress to address gambling addiction. 


So here we are at the second group that’s harmed by online sports betting. The people placing the bets. Tonko says that one out of five people with a gambling issue will attempt suicide, making it one of the most dangerous mental health challenges.   

 

TONKO: Our new legislation takes a comprehensive public health oriented approach of requiring states that offer sports betting to meet minimum federal standards.

 

NIKFARDJAM: One of those standards is the apps use of artificial intelligence - behind the scenes to curate bets for users based on their betting activity. The apps then ping them to keep them betting. Harry Levant, is from the Public Health Advocacy Institute. 

        

HARRY LEVANT: Sadly, this extraordinary technology and information advantage is used to make the products more addictive and create instant individualized offers and incentives to gamble. 

 

NIKFARDJAM: One of the challenges in regulating sports betting is that the laws vary state-by-state. Shawn Fluharty is a state representative in West Virginia and president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. A law passed last night that allows the state to ban bettors who threaten and harass athletes online.

 

SHAWN FLUHARTY: you don't have a right to bet on sports. It's absolutely just a privilege, and that privilege could be revoked if you're threatening players. 

          

NIKFARDJAM: Fluharty says that sustainable models like this one will protect consumers and athletes

 

FLUHARTY: We have an obligation to make sure that we have a safe environment for our student athletes. We want entertainment to be the goal here, not gambling addiction.

 

(SOUNDBITE FROM MUSIC OUTSIDE OF SPORTS BAR)


NIKFARDJAM: Will Kaiser is standing outside a sports bar in Morningside Heights. He’s showing me his FanDuel account and the March Madness set up.


WILL KAISER: Right, so if you look here, like, for Thursday, the first three options it gives you is the spread, the money line, and then total points, so you can bet on,  Clemson, they have a seven and a half spread, so that means that, If they lose by seven points, you would win money. But if they lose by eight points, you don't win money. 


NIKFARDJAM: Kaiser says he’s a pretty casual FanDuel but… he likes the extra excitement he gets when betting on a game he’s watching. 


KAISER: But then again, I would recommend not to do it at all. I would say definitely don't bet any money that you would be afraid to lose. 


NIKFARDJAM: For some, that’s easier said than done. Desiree Nikfardjam, Columbia Radio News.


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