The Rise of Mobile Betting is Leaving People Ruined: Ways to Avert Catastrophe

Written by:
Gilbert Horowitz
Published on:

Financial catastrophe is now only a few clicks away, Maxwell Strachan of Vice News suggested in a recent report dealing with the rise of mobile sports betting in the United States.

Much of the draw comes from an inundation of ads.  Nearly all campaigns push those generous welcome bonuses.  Heading to a sports betting conference a few miles outside of New York City recently we were amazed by practically the first thing that caught our attention upon exiting the Lincoln Tunnel.  There it was, a billboard pushing free money for sports betting.

And it's not only a U.S. phenomenon (if you happen to live in a state where sports betting is permitted, you get what we are talking about).  Countries throughout the world of lured newbies via bonus bait.  Back in the early 2000's a Denmark television show dedicated an entire segment to taking advantage of lucrative welcome bonuses (operators learned quickly to create rollover requirements as many Danes cashed out after placing just one bet).  Scandinavians soon became hardcore online gamblers and bonus junkies. 

Strachan's report on the introduction of sports betting to a new jurisdiction profiled "Jason", a sports gambler from Illinois.  When his state legalized the activity a few years ago, he found himself constantly exposed to ads after simply dabbling in sports betting over previous years.


His phone allowed him to be “100 percent plugged in” from anywhere, without people asking questions. “I could do everything you could do at a casino on my phone,” he said. But, he added, “I didn’t have to explain where I was or anything like that. I didn't have to answer to anybody.”

Jason would go on to gamble every single day, playing in an environment that he perceived to be "less seedy" and more mainstream accepted thanks to regulation.

“I felt like I had to be gambling at all times,” he told Vice.

He would ultimately blow through “a couple hundred thousand dollars” before admitting he had become a problem gambler in May. Still, Jason considers himself “a slightly better case than average.” Since he joined Gamblers Anonymous, he’s heard stories of people losing homes and living out of their car. 

Strachan adds:

Experts increasingly see the simultaneous rise of online sports betting, online casinos (legal or not), cryptocurrency trading, and day trading as the same root thing—gambling—with the same root issues.

“It's pretty conclusively established in the gambling literature that ease of access is a risk factor for the development of gambling problems,” Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling said. “Ease of access alone doesn't make doesn't make someone a gambling addict. But it certainly can contribute to an increase in the rate and severity.”

Mobile Safeguards That May Work

While rare, a handful of U.S. states make new customers take that extra step in registering their online betting accounts.  Nevada has long required remote registration while Illinois currently makes this a requirement for those who want to bet on in-state colleges or games that feature them.

Some states also incorporate self-exclusion lists, which we've never quite understood their effectiveness.  That's not to say they don't work.  It's just hard to see a drug user taking the time to call and have his or her name placed on a list of those ineligible to receive their prescription drug of choice.  When they suddenly get the urge, or truly need that particular drug for a medical condition, it seems they would just as easily get their name removed from said self-exclusion list.  Perhaps we're just not understanding how the process works.


The Bonus Language Crackdown

In the United Kingdom, the Advertising Standards Authority continues to try keeping operators and affiliates on a short leash by fining those who promote gambling as a way to win over the opposite sex, same sex attraction or simply make one rich.

The ASA recently cracked down on an unapproved voiceover.  A copy of the ASA response appears below.

(ASA) acknowledged that the ad did not explicitly depict betting, but "the use of ***** banners around the track and in the crowd would lead viewers to interpret it as promoting gambling on horse racing with *****".

The ASA said: “The ad’s voiceover addressed the viewer in the second person and also referred to ‘your horse winning a tightly contested race’ with no reference to losses.

“We considered there was a significant risk that element of the ad could disproportionately affect, or pressure, those struggling with gambling addiction.”

It added: “Because we considered there was a significant risk of the ad disproportionately affecting a vulnerable group, we concluded that it was socially irresponsible.

“It portrayed, condoned, or encouraged gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible or could lead to financial, social or emotional harm.”

You get the picture.

- Gilbert Horowitz,

Gambling News