Editor’s corner: Super odds favor some winners, lots of losers

A woman takes a photo of a sign for Super Bowl 58 at the Fremont Street Experience Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024 in Las Vegas. The Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL's Super Bowl 58 football game Sunday. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

During the heart of the college and professional football seasons, New York state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had some good news for state coffers while highlighting an obvious social concern in a news release. Gambling may be boosting revenues for Albany, but it’s taking a costly toll on those who are addicted.

“Gaming has significantly expanded in the state in the last several years,” he said in October. “With the ease and 24-7 availability of mobile betting apps, problem gambling and addiction are poised to increase. More attention should be devoted to understanding the implications of mobile sports betting, particularly on young New Yorkers.”

As the hype surrounding this year’s Super Bowl continues to ramp up, so will the betting. According to the Gambling Industry National Trades Association, there is expected to be more than $23 billion wagered on Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs showdown.

In what was once considered by the sporting leagues and its television partners to be taboo, it is now nearly impossible for viewers to not know the angles for placing bets during the telecast. Besides the advertisements, the wagers can be seen in pregame shows and during the course of the contest.

Pennsylvania has been allowing online gaming for five years, launching in 2019 that included 12 sports betting apps. In 2023, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that combined gaming revenue achieved a record high.

Combined revenue figures reported by the board were more than $5.7 billion and consisted of the combined revenue of slot machines, table games, sports wagering, iGaming, video gaming terminals (VGTs) and fantasy contests. That figure is 9.3% above the 2022 combined revenue amount of $5,211,335,687.

The resulting tax revenue of $2,343,399,312 generated in 2023 through these forms of gaming was also a record besting the $2,123,019,992 generated in 2022. Tax revenue figures reflect amounts generated prior to any adjustments by the PA Department of Revenue.

While that may be a winning formula for state coffers, there are plenty who are losing out.

Jeff Wierzbicki, team leader of The Western Finger Lakes and Central Problem Gambling Resource Centers in New York state, noted in a letter during the summer that the agency was in dire need of help to deal with a growing number of clients.

“(We) are seeing an increased number of callers looking for counseling for a gambling problem,” he wrote. “We are looking for social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, etc. to join our clinical referral network and help our clients.”

Shanley Olszowy, program manager at that same agency, confirms the rise in calls since the start of mobile gambling that are especially impacting the younger adult population. “We’ve definitely seen a spike in calls from that 18- to 24-year-old range whether it’s the person themselves or a very concerned parent because they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into,” she said. “It’s new. It’s exciting and, for some people, before they know it, it’s a real problem.”

As for The Western Finger Lakes and Central Problem Gambling Resource Centers, they understand the triggers that come with this weekend’s game. There will be winners, but usually there are a lot more losers when the bets are placed.

“While the Super Bowl is undoubtedly a time of excitement and celebration, it’s essential to approach the event with a heightened awareness of the potential risks associated with gambling harm,” the center says in its monthly blog. “By taking proactive measures, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed, individuals can enjoy this time by ensuring that the thrill of the game doesn’t come at the cost of their well-being.”

Warren County does not have a treatment center, but those needing assistance can call the PA Gambling Addiction 24-hour hotline at 1-800-GAMBLER.

John D’Agostino is the editor of the Times Observer, The Post-Journal and OBSERVER in Dunkirk, N.Y. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 814-723-8200, ext. 253.


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