Editorial: The (Draft)Kings of campus


Since 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court dissolved a 1992 federal law that previously restricted sporting betting to a few states and Native American tribal land; sports gambling has become so popular that its reach feels inescapable.

Advertisements for apps like DraftKings and FanDuel are high on billboards and plastered on our social media feeds. You can’t even watch live sports on television without the odds of any number of bets cycling down at the bottom of your screen.

According to data from Similarweb, a website traffic tracker, two years ago these apps were pulling in anywhere from two to six million monthly users, but as of September 2023, the monthly users reached well over 16 million.

Since sports betting apps have compounded on the gambling scene, their impacts on the way we view college and professional sports have been put on a national stage for all to see. 

But under the gold and glamor of this new kind of sports entertainment is a gambling epidemic that is being felt on college campuses across the country. As the medium with which we gamble changes, so too does the archetype for gambling addiction. 

According to a study from the University of Buffalo, the representation of pathological gamblers is at least twice as large for university students as it is for the general public. And college mental health counselors are seeing more and more students come to them with their gambling problems. 

Almost all are male students.  

Schools across the country are failing to address this hidden sports gambling epidemic, with some universities even signing major deals with popular sportsbooks. The longer we wait to address this sleeping monster, the longer we will allow students to fall victim to gambling addiction. 

One of the hardest parts about combating gambling addiction is that it may be harder to recognize than many other forms of addiction. If your friend loses excessive weight or experiences erratic behaviors, it’s easy to recognize those things as signs of drug abuse or other problems. 

But a student can use their phone or laptop to place dozens of bets during a class without alerting any classmates or professors.  

And because a lot of sports betting takes place in fraternity houses (places not well known for their transparent social practices) colleges struggle to identify how many students are affected.

Even worse is the ease and accessibility of these sports betting apps.

You don’t have to go to a casino or a race track to place your bets. You can do it from your bed or desk at all hours of the night, without ever stopping. And when there are no sports to place bets on, betting apps have dozens of mini-games that mimic slot machines and other casino games, available to play 24/7. 

These games emulate the high dopamine production and prey on the compulsive behaviors associated with social media addiction, so players spend even more time on the app. It’s equivalent to doom scrolling, but instead of killing time and brain cells, you’re losing God knows how much money to your gambling addiction. 

And for students who are too young to gamble under state laws, there are countless workarounds.

Some sportsbooks make you put in personal information like your social security number to verify your age, but there are hundreds of offshore sportsbooks that don’t require any information other than your credit card number. 

If online gambling isn’t your thing, we suspect there are students known as “bookies” who will make their own betting odds and take bets and payout like any other sportsbook would.

The reality of sports betting at a private institution like Lehigh, where we have an income diversity issue, is that it affects lower-income students more severely.

For some wealthier students, losing a couple hundred dollars every week won’t affect their personal finances. But lower-income students are gambling with money that could hurt their immediate future.  

Few universities have announced plans to target gambling addiction or increase awareness about the subject. We are looking to Lehigh to be a trailblazer in this rebellion against irresponsible sports betting.   

Lehigh currently has some information regarding gambling addiction on their Alcohol, Drug, and Addiction Resources page, with links to the University Counseling and Psychological Services and several gambling addiction hotlines, but there is room for improvement. 

Lehigh could hire a counselor who specializes in gambling addiction and make more of an effort to spread awareness to first-years during orientation. What Lehigh really ought to do is concentrate their focus on the places where sports betting is most common: fraternity houses.

The explosion of sports betting apps has changed the social landscape of college campuses, especially for young men, and universities need to wake up to the realities of gambling addiction before it gets worse.

We have an opportunity to be one of the first schools to properly and accurately address this sports gambling epidemic. We are looking to the administration to be the change we wish to see in the college landscape. 

Comment policy

Comments posted to The Brown and White website are reviewed by a moderator before being approved. Incendiary speech or harassing language, including comments targeted at individuals, may be deemed unacceptable and not published. Spam and other soliciting will also be declined.

The Brown and White also reserves the right to not publish entirely anonymous comments.

Leave A Reply