If you live in the state of Arizona, it’s hard to ignore the countless advertisements and hundreds of billboards proclaiming the groundbreaking news. Whether it’s Shaquille O’Neal supporting another one of his countless sponsors, Jamie Foxx dancing the salsa, or J.B. Smoove screaming into a microphone pretending to be Julius Caesar, it seems like everywhere you go everyone is trying to tell you the same thing: Sports betting has come to the desert. But what many are not talking about is the impact sports betting laws are having on Arizona universities.
Casinos opened their sportsbooks back when the NFL season kicked off last September, and although the official reports aren’t in yet, all signs point to major financial success for the casinos who have set up shop in The Valley. As of now, there are eighteen online sportsbooks that Arizona residents can bet on, with many more expected to launch in the coming months.
“So far things have been pretty successful,” says Peter Brennan, an employee at the new FanDuel sportsbook lounge that has recently opened inside of the Footprint Center. “We see a ton of customers come and place bets during the basketball games and of course, during NFL Sundays. Those were definitely our busiest days. It was a bit slow at first I think because people were unfamiliar with the legal gambling process, but things have picked up a lot over the past few months.”
While many have praised the casinos and sportsbooks for bringing a multi-billion dollar industry to the Grand Canyon State, concerns about the addictive effects gambling has on mental health have begun to emerge.
Andrew English, a 21-year-old junior at Arizona State University and member of a fraternity that wishes to remain anonymous, says he’s seen a massive surge in sports betting and future wager within his friend’s ground this semester.
“I think there are 34 or 35 guys that live in this house, and every single one of them has placed a bet at some point this semester, legal or through some other way,” says English. “Some of them will place bets and not even watch the game, which makes absolutely no sense to me.”
A study done by the National Council for Problem Gambling found that young adult males are the primary target audience for these sportsbooks, with heavy marketing campaigns being used in an attempt to attract new bettors.
The same study also found that, “Among sports bettors, the most common ‘sports betting opportunity’ was to have placed a bet with a friend on a sporting event (47%; Statista, 2018). Frequenting social environments with peers and significant others may lead to exposure to settings in which sports betting is normative and where social pressures to wager on sports exist.”
While it’s no secret that gambling, and especially sports gambling, can become addictive and problematic with younger adults, it seems like few, if any, are educating young students on these problems. CollegeGambling.org approximates that 75 percent of college students gambled during the past year (whether legally or illegally) with about 18 percent gambling weekly or more frequently. And yet, despite the prevalence of on-campus gambling, only 22 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have formal policies on gambling.
There are 29 colleges and universities located within a 50-mile radius of Phoenix, with an estimate of 531,105 students currently enrolled. These students have become a target for casinos, who see them as nothing more than inexperienced users who will lose money quickly.
“I’m not going to get into anything specific but I’ve seen some people lose big money. We’re in college, I can’t afford to be throwing my hard-earned cash away like that,” says English.
The money from these sportsbooks that is flowing through the state is great in a lot of regards and can be put towards future projects to improve the state of Arizona, but the colleges and universities located within the state borders should look into ways to combat sports gambling for their students. Gambling addiction is a serious problem in our country, and it starts with educating our future generation of leaders on the lifelong complications that can come with it.