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Americans plan to bet $1.8 billion

This year’s FIFA World Cup is the first men’s tournament since the Supreme Court’s decision to end the federal ban on sports betting in 2018 allowed a growing list of states to legalize the activity.

An estimated 132 million Americans now live in states where sports betting is legal, up from just 10 million during the last World Cup four years ago.

As such, 20.5 million Americans plan to bet a total of $1.8 billion on the soccer tournament that kicks off this weekend, according to estimates from the American Gaming Association (AGA).

It is encouraging to see punters taking legality seriously. AGA reports the majority of those who bet – 78% – say legal betting is important.

The AGA also encourages punters to put their financial security first.

“As the World Cup kicks off, anyone participating in the action needs to have a game plan to bet responsibly,” AGA Senior Vice President Casey Clark said in a press release. “That means setting a budget, keeping it fun, learning the odds and playing with legitimate, regulated operators.”

Legal gambling means you won’t find yourself in trouble with the law for betting on the World Cup or any other sporting event. But it also means it can be easier for punters to slip into dangerous habits.

While friendly or even serious betting on sports can be a fun way to get involved in the game, routine gambling can quickly become a problem even before the person making the bets realizes it.

“[Gambling] is a hidden addiction — there aren’t as many outward signs,” Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, told CNBC Make It.

Americans often recognize drug abuse because of the physical, visible effects substances can have on someone’s body, Whyte says. But, “there is no substance in gambling, so people misunderstand it as a moral or a matter of weak will.”

It is difficult to track the number of Americans dealing with problem gambling or clinically defined gambling addictions due to a lack of reporting, stigma and gaps in education around problematic behavior. But Whyte says the risk factors that could lead more people to problems are increasing.

Risk factors can include lying to loved ones about gambling or having trouble cutting back on gambling, which NCPG was able to detect through surveys.

These indicators “rose by around 30% between 2018 and 2021,” says Whyte. “We have also seen significant increases in calls, texts and chats to our national helpline – around a 45% increase in calls between 2021 and 2022.”

While these reports are not a direct correlation to an increase in problem gambling or addictions, they still indicate that an increase in gambling venues may cause an increase in the habits, says Whyte.

‘The odds are always against you’

With sports betting, some may assume that the risk is lower than games of chance such as the lottery or slots because people can study the sports they are watching. Or maybe they had some expertise as a player, which could help them better predict outcomes.

But Whyte says the opposite is true and that sports betting can be more risky because of such confidence.

“Sports betting is seen as a game of skill, some people think they are better at it than others,” says Whyte. “But with that, the more [frequently] they bet, the more skilled they become. This can encourage you to chase your losses and continue in gambling behavior far beyond the limits you have set, far beyond reasonable losses and to significant financial damage.”

Ease of access has also made people more susceptible to gambling problems, Whyte says. Before mobile sports betting became widely legal, bettors had to go to a physical sportsbook or work with a live bookie to place bets.

“It can be extremely high-speed and high-stakes, with 24-hour or instant access using electronic payments,” says Whyte. “The odds are always against you in the long run – the more you gamble, the more likely you are to lose.”

Keep your bets friendly

While some states have enacted regulations to address problem gambling, Whyte says they are the exception.

“Most states are either too ignorant of the problems they are creating or they are simply indifferent to the problems because their eyes are blinded by the windfall tax revenue,” Whyte says of gambling safeguards.

“I think states don’t want to be on the hook for something they see as an individual kind of social problem,” he adds.

In that case, the onus is on individuals to protect themselves from risky bets or making too much of a habit out of gambling. That’s one reason why NCPR has created a website that offers tips and resources for bettors to gamble safely, such as setting a strict budget for your bets and encouraging the idea of ​​stopping when it’s no longer ‘ is not a fun experience.

As Kenny Rogers famously sang, “know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

If you or someone you know is showing signs of a gambling problem, you can call or text the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 for free, confidential help available 24/7.

Do you want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on December 13th at 12pm ET to learn from money masters like Kevin O’Leary how you can increase your earning power.

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