Ever since our state legalized sports betting, our airwaves started filling up with high-energy ads enticing us to engage in what appears to be this exciting, shared activity. The message remains inviting: “It’s about sports, so you can’t lose!”
Let me be direct: Sports betting is not about sports, and you will lose.
Sports betting may seem benign compared to playing against a casino’s machines or dealers. If you’re already fixated on the game, match or race, betting feels like innocent fun. The extra cash adds enjoyment to the possibility of your team’s victory.
When our family lived in a California gaming resort town years ago, I saw folks whose lives were diminished by their gambling. From the high-rollers flying into town for a weekend at the tables, to the pensioners bused in from San Francisco to play the slots, to the down-on-their-luck folks who could afford only a Keno ticket, the story was the same. Whatever the momentary rush of pleasure might have been, the end result was usually players emptied of their cash and reason.
The ripples of sports betting could extend into people’s lives. Wagering-as-fun might leach into thought processes or mindsets. Something-for-nothing thinking could elevate chance over certitude, deservedness over humility, emotion over logic, pleasure over pain. Relationships can sour when gaming’s financial stresses tear apart a family’s well-being. Gambling’s unrealistic notions about cause-and-effect may shove aside rationality. Generosity and financial planning might wither. Addictive personalities can develop.
These words are more than a rant. Part of the role of older adults is to serve as lifestyle scouts for those coming after us—helping younger relatives or friends wend their way through life. Sometimes we have to say, “Don’t come this way, it’s not good for you.”
This may be one of those times.
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