The sports betting industry fights against the odds


Graphic illustration by Valerie Shu

Sports betting is currently legal in 31 states while mobile betting is legal in 21 states. The thrill of making risky money drives fans to bet more money causing this industry to grow at unimaginable rates.

Jasmine Rihal and Inaaya Yousuf

Participating in sports has become an integral part of everyday life, whether cheering for a team, playing a sport, or most recently, placing wagers on certain events or games. Sports betting is a rising industry growing in popularity, supported by the increasing legalization of betting around the U.S. and online presence through mobile betting.  

“The greater popularity of sports and betting on sports has largely led to the increase of the industry, especially online betting,” said Ronald, RiggioClaremont Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychol at Claremont McKenna College. “With online sports betting, you don’t have to rely on word-of-mouth or face-to-face encounters, which has led to some of the increase.” 

In 1919, eight members of the White Sox club intentionally lost the World Series game against the Cincinnati Reds, now infamously known as Black Sox Scandal. This scandal exposed the corrupt practices of the sports betting industry and prompted states to ban numerous forms of gambling by creating organizations to combat this growing problem.

During the Prohibition Era, local mafias continued to rise and a main source of revenue was sports betting and making illegal bets. These illegal ventures increased their income and helped build their empires. 

“The mafia was essentially filling the demand for sports betting,” Economics and history teacher Luca Signore said. “It was illegal, but the mafia was more than happy to provide these services at a very steep cost for the consumers.” 

 Organized crime syndicates dominated the industry, which caused the government to take more action to protect consumers while also fighting the growing corruption in the industry. 

In 1992, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed, which banned states and governments from legalizing sports wagering. States could no longer “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote, license, or authorize” sports betting. The Supreme Court has since voted to overturn the act. Nonetheless, many states, such as New York, Delaware, Illinois and more, have imposed taxes so that individuals feel less motivated to partake in such activities. 

Due to the increasing involvement of online sports communities, fantasy leagues have also become a factor in sports betting. In fantasy leagues, fans can play and bet games against other fans — a concept similar to the idea of sports betting. These numbers can increase when the season is in play when many fans are invested in what is going on. 

“Fantasy Leagues allowed sports betting to get to the point where it is today because at first leagues promoted fantasy leagues but then they made a shift to sports betting as a way to increase revenue and viewership,” junior Pranav Durbha said. 

There is also significant celebrity involvement that encourage people to place bets. Notable celebrities that frequent in sports gambling include Drake, who bets on many basketball and football games, 50 Cent, who has won over a million dollars on the Giants, and Floyd Mayweather, who used to be one of the biggest gamblers. 

“When people admire someone they are more prone to imitate their behavior,” Riggio said. “Gambling is just another product opportunity for celebrities to endorse and it can influence our behavior.”

The most common reason people indulge in sports betting is the possibility and excitement that comes with a risky win of money, as most gambling methods do. Sports betting also leads to more fan engagement, it allows people to feel like they are in a community and are becoming more involved in the general sports industry as well. 

“We keep gambling to get that shot of adrenaline and the psychological high of being rewarded,” Riggio said. “We never know when the next payoff is going to come, so that leads us to keep trying for the next win which makes it hard to stop.”

Sports betting is currently legal in 31 states while mobile betting is legal in 21 states. The thrill of making risky money drives fans to bet more money causing this industry to grow at unimaginable rates. However, this has led to concerns about issues such as addiction and financial harm, which are important to monitor as the industry continues to flourish. 

“Gambling doesn’t really provide any sort of positive outcome for society, there’s no positively externality to gambling except for the people who are winning the bets and those who are taking the bets,” Signore said.