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Can Too Big To Fail Lead To A Win-Win?

The app-based online sports betting industry found a surprising partner in institutions of higher education that were hungry to share in this multibillion-dollar industry.


In May of 2018, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which had banned nearly every form of sports betting in the United States outside of the state of Nevada. That opened the door for states to pass their own laws regarding online and in-person sports betting. Led by New Jersey there are now 6 states that have online gambling and 25 states and the District of Columbia that allow mobile sports betting.


According to GlobeNewswire online gambling generated $58.2 million in worldwide revenues in 2021 in this relatively new industry. There are other sources that believe that number is conservative. By 2030 it is anticipated that will increase to a staggering $145.6 billion. The United States now has the largest sports betting market in the world. More than 45 million Americans bet on the NCAA basketball tournament in March 2022, 31 million on the 2022 Super Bowl, and betting on sports in the nation’s largest collegiate conferences (Power 5) is estimated to be around $11 billion according to US Integrity. The industry may in fact now be too big to fail.


Who is Gambling

Where does much of that revenue come from? More than one-half of all those that are online sports gamblers are between the age of 21 and 29 and only 5% are over the age of 44. App-based gambling has a generational bent and in the long term, there will be a move away from expensive bricks and mortar casinos. Men and women are equally likely to participate in online sports betting. More than 50% of all online sports wagers are less than $25. Unlike a traditional casino, online sports betting is more low wager and high volume transactionally.


Colleges Enter the Game

Given the demographics, it should be no surprise that the online sports betting industry has approached many large universities with financial deals to encourage students to download a sports gambling app or visit a sportsbook. According to a recent New York Times article at least 8 colleges have entered into multimillion-dollar agreements to promote sports gambling. With the anticipated skyrocketing growth in the industry that 8 may become 18 and then 80 in a relatively short time frame. If you add the financial stresses resulting from decreasing enrollments and the search for new revenue sources to replace declining tuition, there is no doubt these relationships will become more common.


Impact on Wellness Goals

Through my blogs, I have identified the emphasis of many colleges on campus wellness and establishing wellness goals. Colleges have invested significant resources to address issues like the increase in mental health cases among students, food and housing insecurity, and campus safety and security. Does promoting legalized gambling run counter to those wellness goals? Is the answer to that question tied at all to how much the college is being paid and how those funds will be used? The International Center for Responsible Gambling through CollegeGambling.org has released a College Policies Toolkit which encourages schools to form a campus-wide committee to address the negative impact that gambling can have on college students. They use the example of similar committees that are common on campuses to address alcohol use and abuse.


Win-Win?

I have gambled on sporting events in the past and will likely do it again in the future. So my goal is not to weigh in from a moral perspective on promoting gambling among college students, but instead, to draw attention to this growing industry and see how campuses should prepare for the impact it may have on students. As you enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends, I am sure many of you watched NFL games and over the weekend will root for your favorite college football and basketball teams. So, I thought this was the appropriate time to raise awareness of this trend that will continue to impact college campuses and start a conversation that hopefully leads to directing at least some of the revenue generated from relationships between colleges and online sports betting companies to existing wellness goals. That would be a win-win.


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