Few things enhance the thrill of watching sports like having money on a game. True fans know the feeling when their favourite teams are in the playoffs, or even the championship. For the betting man, this can be their reality every week. Whether you are at the track, getting caught up in the atmosphere and betting on horses you know nothing about; at a casino in Vegas, telling yourself you’re just trying it for the experience; or at home following the games on your Pro-Line ticket after a hard day at work, you are contributing to the huge industry that is sports gambling. But just how huge is it and how many people are actually addicted?
Reuters, a news agency who has done extensive research on the subject, estimate that over one trillion dollars are bet on sports each year, worldwide. Yes, you read that right – trillion! With an amount that high, you would certainly think that it is the most pressing concern facing us, in terms of addiction. Yet, if you ask around to your friends and family if they or anyone they know are addicted to sports gambling, you would be hard-pressed to find any and it is even rarer that someone will admit to being a sports-gambling addict. Writing this article has only enhanced my awareness that people simply do not consider their sports-gambling habits a serious problem.
We have all heard of people losing loved ones and relationships due to excessive betting, or betting huge chunks of their life savings for one last desperate effort to make some money back. These are certainly prevalent in movies and even while I worked at a warehouse you would occasionally see one guy cross the line bet a paycheque or other large sums of money. But as university students, the majority of us are not in that deep and most likely do not have that kind of money to wager anyway. It certainly does not seem like an issue that is relevant to us.
That high annual number has to come from somewhere, however. The late teens and early twenties is the time when people get sucked in to sports gambling. Just beginning to live on their own and maybe for the first time having disposable income, it becomes an easy and fun way to try and make a couple extra bucks. Full-fledged problems may not develop until later, but it is crucial that students are wary of their habits and bet responsibly, if at all.
Problemgambling.ca released a report last year listing the state of sports gambling in Ontario. A table showing the frequency of males 18 and over in Ontario has 7.8 per cent betting on sport select and 7.2 per cent participating in sports pools. Furthermore, participation in these particular activities is highest in ages 18 to 24. Perhaps not as surprising, males are seven times more likely to bet on sports than females. However, what is a shock is that 21.3 per cent of males from grades 7 to 12 are involved in sports pools and 36 per cent take part in sports lotteries. These are much higher numbers than we might originally expect, yet on further thought, it starts to make sense. In this digital age there are more opportunities to bet on sports than ever before and more ways to gain sports knowledge and feel compelled to bet. Whether it is a friendly wager with friends, the Canadian staple of playoff hockey pools, or the ever increasing popularity of the fantasy sports league, it is now very common to bet on sports without ever going to the casino or visiting your closest 7-Eleven.
If you cannot get enough of sports and are always itching for the next game and setting your fantasy line-ups in class, then you are certainly not alone on campus. But it is very important that you are responsible with your money. Do not bet money that you do not have and maybe use that money on groceries instead. If you are feeling that you need to take a break, or the bank account is too low, it is more than okay to tell the guys that you have to sit this one out, or that you are just watching the game for the fun of it. And if you still want the thrill that sports betting brings, just cheer for the Leafs. Trust me, you will often feel as if you just lost a hundred dollars.