Legislators Roll Dice on Sports Gambling

The debate over the legalization of sports gambling has intensified at the Legislature, raising concerns about the potential negative impacts on individuals and communities. The Minnesota Catholic Conference stands firm in our opposition to the expansion of gambling, advocating instead for strict limitations and expansive safeguards against addiction.  

The proliferation of online sports betting, easily accessible via smartphones, poses significant risks to society. It exploits vulnerabilities, particularly among young men, by capitalizing on addictive tendencies and exacerbating gambling-related harms. According to this 2023 Newsweek report, alarming statistics speak volumes: in Virginia, calls to gambling helplines surged by 387% after legalization, while nationally, the incidence of gambling addiction has risen by 30% since 2018. Shockingly, in New Jersey, an estimated six percent of residents now suffer from gambling disorder. 

Contrary to the belief that gambling is harmless entertainment, it often leads to devastating consequences for individuals and families, especially those already struggling financially. While some may argue for personal choice, the reality is that most gamblers lack the necessary self-control and financial stability to withstand potential losses. 

The detrimental effects of legalized sports gambling extend beyond personal hardship, infiltrating the very fabric of sportsmanship and integrity. Reports abound of athletes and coaches experiencing threats and coercion from gambling interests, tarnishing the purity of sports competition. Just recently, the NBA handed down a lifetime ban on a basketball player who placed bets on his own games.  

If policymakers decide to move forward with online sports betting, stringent safeguards must be in place to mitigate these harms. We commend Senator John Marty of Roseville for his proposed bill, S.F. 5330, which outlines essential measures to protect Minnesotans. 

Key provisions of Senator Marty's bill that we support include bans on betting on college sports and in-game actions, known as prop bets. Additionally, the bill prohibits gambling platforms from sending push notifications to users when their phones are idle, reducing the constant temptation to place bets. 

In addition to what Senator Marty calls for in S.F. 5330, we are advocating for comprehensive studies to assess the prevalence and impact of sports gambling, particularly its correlation with problem gambling, gambling disorders, youth gambling, and even suicide. These studies are crucial for informing evidence-based policies and interventions to safeguard public health and well-being. 

We also support restrictions on advertising, including no advertising to audiences where more than 20 percent of individuals are under 21 and mandatory warnings about the addictive nature of gambling. 

We urge legislators in Minnesota to exercise caution and prioritize the welfare of their constituents by pressing the pause button on sports gambling proposals. While we oppose its legalization, implementing robust safeguards is imperative if such measures are to be considered. Let us work together to protect our communities from the perils of gambling addiction and uphold the values of justice and compassion for all. Send a message to your legislators today asking them to oppose online sports gambling by visiting www.mncatholic.org/action_22489 

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