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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Sports betting is a dangerous game

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DTH Photo Illustration. Two UNC students are pictured exchanging money. House Bill 347 would legalize sports betting in North Carolina.

As I begin to lose the will to stay focused during a 9 a.m. lecture, my eyes scan across the bright computer screens scattered across the classroom. I often see people immersed in iMessage conversations, Amazon Wish Lists and computer games.

However, recently I've noticed screens that were once filled with Candy Crush Saga and 2048 have transitioned to an equally addicting but far more dangerous practice: sports betting. 

Despite the fact that retail sports betting is limited to three tribal casinos in North Carolina, non-monetary betting sites such as Fliff Social Sportsbook have become a popular choice as they skirt current gambling regulations in states that have yet to allow official online betting. These apps provide the user with free currency that can be used to place wagers, allowing the chance to win prizes and buy more currency if the bet is lost.

With the addictive nature of our phones and apps that provide a chance to win prizes, I have seen students calculate bets like they were studying for a final exam or predicting the next financial crisis. Picking up betting lingo like a second language, and punching in Golden State Warriors over 238.5. Stephen Curry at under 29.5. Taking the New York Rangers moneyline against the Buffalo Sabres. 

Although this is no different from any phone game that involves winning or losing, it foreshadows the dangers of N.C. House Bill 347, which was passed and sent to the N.C. Senate, and the future of gambling addiction in North Carolina. 

This bill would allow retail betting to be available to anyone of age through their phone or computer at any time  — which could be detrimental to the lives of young people.

In more than 20 states that have passed similar legislation, high schoolers and early college students have seen spikes in addiction and large financial losses.  

According to a study by the National Council on Problem Gambling, between 60 and 80 percent of high school students report having gambled for money in the past year. Additionally, about 6 percent of recent college students reported gambling weekly or more. 

The minds of young people are more susceptible to addiction due to differences in the developing reward center of the brain, making them likely to participate in destructive behaviors in the future if exposed to them in this time frame.

As a result of the influx of gambling addiction among young students, Virginia, for example, had to pass legislation to require a curriculum on gambling education in public schools within the state. 

V.A. legislator Sam Rasoul best explains the risks of online sports betting when he told Stateline, “children and young people are the fastest-growing segment of gamblers.”

Despite the negatives, N.C. legislators may approve sports betting during 2023. Lobbyists from the multi-billion dollar industry have laid out a convincing spiel about the large tax revenue potential from allowing the expansion of this industry. Revenue estimates have been far from reality in some states, though, and the expansion of the industry has brought higher public health costs.

North Carolina needs to properly address the industry of online sports betting with safeguards and preemptive policies to help our vulnerable youth. We have seen the spread of addiction in the schools of surrounding states, and we have no reason to bet against it.

@dthopinion

opinion@dailytarheel.com

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