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Young men face high risk for gambling addiction as sports betting fire rages. (Op-Ed)

Sports betting apps have become all the rage, allowing bets to be placed anytime, anywhere, and with little warning about financial consequences. The Supreme Court allowed for legalized sports betting in most states in 2018, and there has been a surge in gambling addictions ever since. According to a new Siena College poll, the majority of online bettors are young men, and nearly half of them feel they’re betting more than they should. The attractiveness and ease of the apps make betting simple, quick, and addictive. Young men are targeted to place bets on their favorite teams, players, and leagues, and men ages 25-34 are the primary demographic of sports bettors.

Today’s gambling addicts are betting away their federal student loans and inheritances. Gambling addiction therapist Harry Levant told CBS, “I have patients who gamble in the shower. I have patients who gamble before they get out of bed in the morning. I have patients who gamble while they are driving. There are no guardrails.” He added, “The sportsbooks and the commercials and the leagues themselves are making it look so cool to gamble and risk your money.”

Gambling companies tend to use artificial intelligence, data, and engineering to entice young men to make snap bets, not just on games, but on every play within games. As the AI grows stronger and learns the behavior of each individual user, it updates odds within seconds, in real-time. It is nearly impossible for a human user to determine the odds of a bet in an instance, but the AI misleads users to make bets that aren’t very thought out or researched. Levant views the massive popularity of online sports gambling as a public health emergency.

Wagers are not fair either, as the AI collects data points on users including time of betting, how much was bet, and which marketing tactics resulted in bets. With this level of personal information, the companies should be able to conclude which users are at risk of developing addictions, as well as work towards getting them help. Instead, they use this data to claw their way into the minds of their bettors to extract more bets of a higher price. Some companies, such as Flutter, who owns FanDuel, claim to ban users who bet too much and too often.

“It takes the entire onus, puts it back on the individual,” Levant said, “To take an addictive product like gambling and microbetting, deliver it in light speed with the use of artificial intelligence, and then say to people, ‘But now use this responsibly,’ it is wrong.”

We need federal regulations on these companies that are manipulating young men into spending their entire savings as well as money they don’t have in the promise of winning big. While a few people may win big, most young men are facing financial ruin.

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