The days of only being able to bet on sports in a casino are officially coming to a close since online sports gambling is quickly gaining popularity. The demographic buying in? College students.
According to Victor Matheson, an economics professor at Holy Cross with extended knowledge of the sports gambling world, more than 75% of college students have gambled in some form during the past year. It is becoming a huge talking point and pastime for many college students.
Nursing freshman Max Young said he does not partake himself, but he observes his friends gambling on sporting events.
“I would say it is because you have more free time,” Young said. “Usually, I don’t even watch random NFL games unless it’s from my home team, and now I’m here and you just have time and you just want to watch the games because you’re bored.”
Matt, a freshman and sports gambler, said he thinks that it has to do with the culture of today’s college student.
The State News has chosen not to include the last names of students because online sports gambling is currently illegal in Michigan.
“Our generation is obsessed with money, and our generation is also obsessed with sports,” Matt said. “I don’t even know that it is uniquely high for our age group, per se. We’re so adept with the internet, and things like that make it so much easier to do it online.”
Despite the increasing popularity of sports gambling, it is still in the process of becoming legal in the state of Michigan. At the end of 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that would make Michigan the 20th state to legalize sports gambling and online sports gambling, but the Michigan Gaming Control Board is still in the process of setting rules and regulations on it, making it unclear when it will become officially legal.
In addition to the legalization, the state of Michigan set an 8.4% tax on sports betting receipts that are paid out, and a tax on internet gambling games such as poker anywhere from 20-28%. Despite the legalization, freshman and active sports gambler Nick doesn’t believe it will change his habits very much.
“Going to the casino and watching the game would be kind of fun, but betting online is so much easier,” Nick said. “I can open up my computer, go on the website and look at lines, and read some articles online. Whereas at the casino, I would have to drive there, I would probably want to get food ... but maybe I’d go every once and while because it definitely would be a different experience.”
Nick said per week he spends about $40 on sports gambling, and overall has made around $300 since he started in December 2018, which included a parlay that won him $500 that had the Toronto Raptors covering the spread in games five and six of the 2019 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. His first experience was with his father on vacation in Las Vegas five years ago when his father placed a bet at a casino for him.
“I have always been into sports, and he just told me ... ‘Why don’t you make some predictions and I’ll put some money down on (the lines),’ and I said, ‘Okay sure, that sounds like fun’,” Nick said. “I did a little bit of research and I told him, and we ended up winning. So ever since then I have had an interest in it.”
Matt carries a similar gambling habit that Nick does, averaging $50 per week spent on bets. Matt originally got into sports gambling because his roommates were also doing it.
“I’ve always been interested in it,” Matt said. “I didn’t really start until I got to college, mostly it was my suitemate who showed me a website he was doing at it had really small minimum, so I was just betting two dollars here and three dollars here.”
Despite all the big wins college students receive at times, sports gambling comes with big risks. According to Matheson’s data, six percent of college students have severe gambling disorder, which is defined by having psychological difficulties, unmanageable debt, falling grades and an increased risk of taking up drugs and alcohol.
“College students are particularly prone to sports gambling, in a way that they are not prone to other types of gambling such as lottery tickets or casinos,” Matheson said. “There is an illusion of control in sports gambling that you don’t have in other types of gambling like lottery tickets.”
An interesting dynamic Professor Matheson thinks is at play, is the particular form of confidence young men might have when gambling and puts that demographic at a specific risk.
“When you are a young college male, you think you are smarter than everyone else in the world,” Matheson said. “The combination of people that watch a lot of sports and people that think they’re smart leads to a situation where you’re thinking you are smarter than the house.”
One thing to look out for going forward as it becomes legal, is how online sports gambling platforms begin to advertise directly to college students.
“I would also rather addict people now when they are 20 rather than addict someone who is 80,” Matheson said. “I want someone to put the app on their phone and use it for the next 50 years.”
Matt and Nick had some advice for college students looking to get in on the next big thing.
“Do the math, check the payouts and bet the minimums if you’re starting out,” Matt said.
Nick lives by the long-held belief that life is too short to bet the under.
“Never bet the under because then you are rooting for a boring game,” Nick said. “You’re rooting for less points to be scored, it’s just lame, I don’t like doing it.”