Art by Philip Churchley

Illegal sports betting attracts student audience

An anonymous junior at Paly reloads his phone in anticipation as he is waiting to see the results of a basketball game, determining whether he gains any money. Sports betting can be a fun source of entertainment between friends, as placing bets can be thrilling and stirring. A number of people have been able to win lots of money from participating in sports betting.

Currently, California is not among the 31 states that have launched the sports betting market nor the two states that have legislation in place that allows citizens to bet. This number is continuing to grow as more and more people have begun to express their support of legalization. However, there are plenty of reasons as to why many people are still against it. 

Critics say gambling can lead to addiction, by being unable to stop in attempts to gain more money, or earn back the money they had previously lost in a bet. Sports betting is also opposed due to its history of throwing and rigging games. 

Social science teacher Christopher Farina said gambling can be addictive because when someone wins a bet, their body releases dopamine. Farina also said a gambling addiction is a form of operant conditioning called a variable ratio schedule, meaning behaviors are reinforced unpredictably. 

“This results in gamblers wondering if ‘next time is going to be the big payout,’ and so they continue to gamble,” Farina said. “It’s detrimental when a person can no longer control their gambling behavior, at which point it can be diagnosed as a psychological disorder.”

However, there are claims that traditional gambling and sports betting have a significant difference. 

But a junior, who asked that his name not be used because betting is illegal for people under 18, said, “Sports betting is very different from normal betting or gambling, where you’re just pulling a slot machine or playing roulette, where it’s all chance-based. You can be more informed on the decisions you make, and that makes it not quite gambling.”

Regardless of the type of betting, Farina said there are ways to prevent gambling from becoming problematic. Simply shifting mindsets can change the effects, he said. 

“If you go into gambling with the mindset of ‘I have a $50 gambling allowance for this event,’ then you’re treating the $50 just like you would for any other experience – you’re spending the money for the fun and entertainment of gambling, and you’re going in expecting to lose your money eventually,” Farina says. “If you’ve budgeted for it, and you stay in your budget, it’s like spending money at a restaurant, video game or on any other form of entertainment.”

The junior said that while he enjoys following the bets placed for his favorite teams, he does not bet on a large scale, nor does he use his own money. 

“I use this app called Fliff, it supplies you with around five cents every two to three hours and it stops giving money after you hit five dollars in your account,” the junior said. “I’ve made some money but nothing significant.”

The junior said sports betting is a unique form of entertainment: it can be enjoyable and exciting in the same way that traditional gambling appeals to people, but it also adds the element of prediction through prior knowledge of the teams or players that you’re betting on. 

“You can use your knowledge on something you’re very passionate about and try to make money doing it,” the junior said. “I know a few friends who’ve done it and won big money. It’s a really fun thing to do with your friends.”