February 2, 2023
I have many faults (which I prefer to consider peccadilloes), but I am, thankfully, not a compulsive gambler. Yes, I go to Saratoga to play the ponies, but I always budget an amount that I can afford to lose and, if and when I have lost that amount, I am done gambling. I find nothing more sad that the long line of people at the ATM at the track. Similarly, when the jackpot for PowerBall or MegaMillions reaches stratospheric heights, I will indulge in $10 worth of tickets or so. I KNOW I am not going to win (though I did win $200 when the recent MegaMillions jackpot was at $1 billion), but it’s nice to fantasize about the charitable causes to which I would contribute in the extremely unlikely event that my numbers came up (I have made a deal with God: if I win PowerBall, I will give it all away. He has not yet lived up to His end of the bargain). And every December, I’ll toss $10 into a college football bowl game pool, which makes the bowl season a little more compelling.
But there are a LOT of Americans with a gambling problem. About one percent of the adult population has a gambling disorder, and the number among young people is anywhere from two to seven times higher. And it is these folks whose lost money provides the revenue for all the ads you hear and see for Fan Duel and Draft Kings and MGM. The ads make it seem like all of this gambling is harmless fun. For most of us, it is.
But Americans lost a record $55 billion in casinos and on mobile-gaming apps in the first 11 months of 2022, 13.5 percent more than all 12 months of 2021. Sportsbooks, in particular, have experienced skyrocketing growth in the wake of a Supreme Court decision invalidating federal laws that prevented states from legalizing gambling; their revenue of $6.6 billion in the first 11 months of 2022 was a 65 percent increase over the previous 12 months.