Busting Arguments That Sports Betting Causes Widespread Gambling Problems

Written By Phil West on February 14, 2024 - Last Updated on February 15, 2024
Stars of Discovery Channel's 'Mythbusters' Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage

Georgia lawmakers are taking another shot at legalizing sports betting during the 2024 legislative session. And, once again, anti-gambling advocates are fighting against it.

Senate Bill 386 recently passed the Senate. If passed by the House, voters would then have the final say on whether Georgia becomes the 39th state to legalize sports betting.

Religious groups are again stoking fears that legal sports betting will cause widespread gambling addiction.

Is there any truth to their argument?

Who opposes legal sports betting in Georgia?

Legal Georgia sports betting moved closer to reality on Feb. 1 when the Georgia Senate passed SB 386 by a 35-15 margin. The bill was amended to make it a constitutional amendment.

That should improve its chances of passing the House. Several lawmakers on that side of the statehouse want residents to vote on the proposal. But strong opposition remains.

Christian Index reported on Jan. 30 that the 1.4 million-member Georgia Baptist Convention (GBC) “has long opposed any expansion of gambling [and] is mobilizing its forces to urge lawmakers to defeat Senate Bill 386.”

The GBC has made it its mission to block any expansion of gambling in the state.

“Protecting our families and children from the risks of gambling addiction is paramount.”

Mack Parnell, executive director of the Georgia Faith and Freedom Coalition – another group that opposes sports betting in the state – continues to push the myth that problem gambling is an epidemic.

“The disastrous effects of problem gambling are well known and well documented.”

The facts

Yale Medicine reports that the vast majority of those who participate in gambling – 99 percent of adults – are not problem gamblers. Most players set limits and gamble only what they can afford to lose.

SB 386, like most sports betting bills that become law, includes a provision to provide resources to help problem gamblers. Resources include informational websites, self-exclusion lists and even free counseling.

Are people really ‘throwing away milk money’?

Rep. Wes Cantrell, a former member of the Georgia House, was quoted in a Christian Index article from 2022 making serious allegations.

“Gambling is bad for our economy, gambling is bad for our families. Parents throwing away rent money, milk money – it’s not good.”

The facts

For millions of Americans who gamble, it’s not the all-consuming addiction that opponents make it out to be. The vast majority place small bets on their favorite teams while making rent payments on time and taking care of their children.

Most states with legal sports betting have collected millions of dollars in taxes from sportsbooks. Most use the money to fund education and services that have long been underfunded.

There’s no doubt that taxes from legal sports betting and casinos have improved economies across the US.

Will there be a ‘boom’ in the sex industry?

Kasey McClure, founder and executive director of 4SARAH, was also quoted in the Christian Index article.

“If you allow gambling to continue to happen and set up shop in Atlanta, the sex industry is going to boom.”

The facts

Again, predictions are more dire than the actual outcomes. It’s reminiscent of the myths about large sporting events attracting increased trafficking tied to prostitution. The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women debunked that myth more than a decade ago.

In fact, sexual and criminal activity are regularly found at illegal gaming halls when authorities raid them. There is no truth whatsoever that the sex industry thrives in states with legal sports betting.

Is it win-lose or win-win?

Mike Griffin, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board member who penned the Christian Index article, asserted, “Where there are winners, there are losers.” He quoted Georgia state Sen. Marty Harbin in the article.

“Gambling expansion is a win-lose situation. The gambling organizations will win while the people will lose.”

Once again, proponents of SB 386 can argue that the tax revenue generated by the bill will fund essential programs and actually constitute a win-win situation.

Sen. Clint Dixon, upon passage of SB 386 in the Senate, celebrated his fellow senators for creating a mechanism to generate “proceeds to student financial aid programs, including the HOPE college scholarship and Georgia Pre-K programs.”

“In passing SB 386, we’ve paved the way for responsible and regulated sports betting in Georgia. As our state evolves, it’s crucial to acknowledge the existing landscape with neighboring states already engaging in this activity. With millions in potential revenue, SB 386 ensures that these funds contribute to the growth of Georgia, supporting essential programs such as the HOPE scholarship and pre-kindergarten initiatives.

“By implementing safeguards, like prohibiting credit card use for betting and providing tools for self-limitation, we prioritize responsible gambling. The bill’s bipartisan support exemplifies a united commitment to the well-being of our citizens and the prosperity of Georgia’s future. SB 386 is more than a legislative milestone; it’s an investment in education and our economy.”

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Phil West

Phil West is a longtime journalist based in Austin, Texas, whose bylines have appeared in The Daily Dot, Nautilus, Pro Soccer USA, Howler, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Antonio Express-News, Austin American-Statesman, and Austin Chronicle. He has also written two books about soccer.

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