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United States' mirage of getting rich beyond belief: gambling addiction

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Gambling is an issue all across America in this day and age. People of all origins rush into casinos or to their local bookie just to blow their money on the chance they might get lucky and hit the jackpot. Gambling is an addiction suffered by the same amount of people throughout America as all illegal drugs combined; however, many people aren’t even aware that it is going on. The truth is it is happening all around you in your everyday life. It happens in your office, school, colleges and universities, the local barber-shop, every place you could ever imagine.

Imagine a bookie walks up to you on the street and gives you odds on a Lakers versus Bulls game that night and asks if you want in. So you put down twenty dollars on the Bulls just to get him off your back. The next day you wake up and turn on ESPNews just to see that the bulls won by three. You covered the spread so you go see the bookie, and he gives you one thousand dollars. After all that you are probably hooked. That one bet that you cashed in on big will probably end up setting you broke. One rule of thumb when thinking about gambling on sports is that the “HOUSE NEVER LOSES.” Just look at the casinos in Vegas. Think to yourself, where do they get all that money? It’s simple, they get it from everyday people who lose all their money to the house. Sure you might

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win ten thousand dollars or some lucky Joe off the street might take home a million in one night, but that same night the casino brought in around five hundred million from all the saps out there who bought drinks, food, and all the money lost at the casino. ( psychnet,, 2002)

There are people such as Nevada’s Senator John McCain who want to do away with Gambling on Collegiate sporting events. However, others speculate that all this would do is allow bookies to make more money and the bets would be handled illegally. Basically, gambling is such a huge grossing industry there is no chance of controlling it. Illegal gambling accounts for over a hundred million dollars a month in the United States. In Las Vegas alone it accounts for over one billion dollars a month. That is ten times the rest of the United States. A national survey conducted by the Harvard School of medicine found that over 6% of teenagers aged 18 years and younger have a serious gambling addiction. ( J.R. Miller,, 1999)

Gambling in sports, especially in amateur sports were players are not getting paid, often effects the outcome. Lets say that a leading scorer on an average NCAA basketball team is approached by a bookie. The bookie tells him that if he keeps his team below the spread that he will pay him fifty thousand dollars. His team will still win just not by as many points as was expected and he goes home with an easy fifty thousand dollars. You are probably wondering how a bookie makes money off of something like this. For example, once he knows the player is in the bag, he goes to twenty different casinos and places a $10,000 bet that his team doesn’t meet the spread. After the spread wasn’t

covered, the bookie just came home with about one or two million dollars, which is nothing compared to the fifty thousand he had to give up for it. This is the reason gambling is a serious problem in the outcome of sports in America.

A famous example of this occurred in 1994 at Arizona State University. This was one of the biggest college sports scandals ever. It involved one major player, a small town youngster caught up in the money. His name was Benny Silman. Silman was at first just a small time bookie. Then one day ASU’s star basketball player Steve “Hedake” Smith couldn’t cover a bet he had made with Silman. So Silman made a deal with Hedake that if he would shave points he could pay off his debt and make a big bank as well. So Hedake jumped at the opportunity. It was working wonderfully and Silman and Hedake pulled it off 4 times with no glitches. Then the FBI got a call from a few casinos in Vegas when millions of dollars were being placed on a nothing game between Arizona State and Washington State. Somehow everyone found out Hedake was shaving points and they all put their money on it. The big problem occurred after halftime, when the coach benched Hedake and ASU covered the spread. It wasn’t until 4 years later that the FBI caught Silman. Hedake Smith was drafted in the 2nd round of the NBA draft but never played a game. He was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Benny Silman recieved the same sentence. The Mangimalis were Silmans backers and they were sentenced to 27 months. There is a movie based on these occurrences. It is rather accurate to the true story. It is called Big Shot: Confessions of a Campus Bookie.

Now let’s take a look at the stats on college and youth betting on sporting events. A recent study of 648 Division I men’s basketball and football athletes indicated that 25 percent had gambled money on other collegiate sporting events, 3.7 percent have gambled money on a game in which they had played, and .5 percent received money from a gambler for not playing well in a game. In a study of 1,700 students from six colleges and universities throughout the United States, 31 percent of male students and 15 percent of female students gambled once a week or more. The rate of pathological and problematic gambling among college students is 4-8 times higher than reported for the adult population. A Harvard University Medical School study indicated that college students show the highest percentage of pathological and problem gambling. ( no author stated,, 1999)

Another study indicated that student athletes were nearly twice as likely to be problem gamblers than non-athletes. In addition, athletes with fraternity or sorority affiliations have a higher rate of problem gambling than non-affiliated athletes. A recent analysis on credit card debts from students who have applied for loans with Nellie Mae revealed that 65 percent of undergraduate students have credit cards, 20 percent have four or more cards, and an average credit card balance is $2,226. “After two months of research into sports gambling, Sports Illustrated found it impossible to visit a college campus and not find sophisticated on or off campus book making operations with a large student clientele that included athletes.” In a study of 1,500 Canadian college students, 89 percent reported they had gambled, and 21 percent had gambled more than one per week.

Almost 3 percent would be classified as pathological gamblers. Betting on sports was the fourth most popular gambling activity among college students. It was more popular than the lottery, basketball or football pools, and horse or dog tracks. Almost 700 Internet sites exist, mostly foreign based sites outside of the United States, that take sports bets or offer casino-style games over the Internet. These sites take in an estimated $1.2 billion a year. In a 1999 survey of 640 collegiate officials, 40 percent indicated that they placed a bet on a sporting event, and more than 20 percent indicated they had bet on the NCAA basketball tournament. Fourteen referees acknowledged betting on sports with a bookie. (William S Saum,, 2001)

Not all sports gambling occurs with bookies on an illegal bases. Nevada is the only state that has legalized gambling. This is where major action needs to be taken because Nevada leads the nation with the most illegal gambling as well.

Internet gambling should be the main concern for the public. The reason for this is because the internet gambling sites allow a student athlete to bet legally on a game he or she is playing in. This should not be allowed because it allows the player a chance to alter the outcome such as in the Arizona State University point shaving scandal. A 1998 study conducted by the University of Michigan surveyed 3,000 NCAA male and female student-athletes. The research revealed that 35% of student-athletes gambled on sports while attending college. Over 5% of male student-athletes wagered on a game in which they participated, provided inside information for gambling purposes, or accepted money for performing poorly in a contest. Furthermore, according to Dr. Howard Shaffer, director

Harvard University Medical School’s Division on Addiction, research shows that more youth are introduced to gambling through sports betting than through any other type of gambling activity. But the very real potential for point shaving incidents is not the only troubling aspect of Internet gambling. If left unchecked, the growth of Internet gambling may be fueled further by college students. After all, who else has greater access to the Internet? Many college students have unlimited use of the Internet and most residence halls are wired for Internet access. Furthermore, college students now have the means to place wagers over the Internet. College campuses are being deluged with representatives from credit card companies offering free gifts to students who apply for a credit card.

While research shows that most youth gamble only occasionally, a minority of them starts gambling on a regular basis and then becomes pathologically involved. Boys get involved with gambling more than girls. Older youths gamble more than younger adults. Youths from ethnic minorities gamble more than Whites. Children can start gambling as early as grade school, or around11 years of age, and usually sustain their level of gambling over a number of years. ”The majority of students gambled at least once during the past year. That includes 80 percent of boys and 50 percent of girls, and a

minority of students gambled weekly or more during the past year. That included 20 percent of boys and five percent of girls,” said Dr. Stinchfield. ”Boys gambled three to four times more often than girls and older students gambled more often than younger students.”

The baseline data provided by Cullen and Latessa finding that 25% of student athletes in their sample gambled on college sports, appears to underreport the extent of sports-related gambling that is occurring nationwide because of their use of a more narrow definition of gambling. Most notable is that over 45% of male athletes reported gambling on sports since attending college. The increase may not necessarily signal an increase in gambling, but rather use of a survey designed to more accurately measure student athlete gambling. The exact wording of Cullen and Latessa’s question regarding sports gambling was, “While you have been in college, have you gambled money on other college sporting events?” This question is limiting, because it excludes wagering on professional sports. Also, it does not suggest to the respondent what gambling on college sports might include, such as sports pools, or wagering with a bookmaker or friend. Research suggests that gambling on sports by student athletes is a prevalent activity. ( no author given,, 1998)

There are additional findings related to the issue of sports gambling that should concern athletic administrators nationwide. For instance, nearly 4% of male student athletes wagered through the use of parlay cards since attending college. This is an important finding since parlay cards can be considered a “gateway” to more direct and financially risky wagering with bookmakers. Over 4% of male student athletes admitting to directly betting with bookies since attending college. Student athlete involvement with bookmakers poses a serious threat to the integrity of intercollegiate sports with 7.1% of male student athletes having either bet with a bookie or through the use of a parlay card.

Assuming 100 football student athletes on each collegiate team, it is possible that 7 individuals per team are engaged in illegal sports wagering. Assuming 15 athletes on each men’s basketball team, it is possible that 1 individual on each team is engaged in illegal sports gambling. Over 5% of male student athletes have wagered on a game in which they participated, provided inside information for gambling purposes or fixed a game in which they participated. All of these activities are cause for concern because they directly compromise the integrity of intercollegiate sports. These findings suggest that it is increasingly likely that some intercollegiate contests are no being legitimately contested. The involvement of female athletes in gambling activities should not be discounted. Although research indicates a lesser involvement by females than males, this should not provide false comfort to administrators. As media focus and professional opportunities increase, the temptations and problems that face male athletes are likely to be encountered by females. With women’s basketball contests receiving more attention at national sports books, and local support for collegiate teams growing, there is increased potential for problems. Should the female athletes fall into the same trap as their male athletes have, the collegiate officials would surely be forced to take harsher actions. ( no author given,, 2000)

The United States government needs to step in and put their foot down when it comes to illegal gambling. The games we all play are being tarnished by athletes worried more about their pocket books then their pride. There are steps that need to be taken to decrease illegal and legal gambling on all sporting events. Now you will get a glance at a few actions the United States government should take to end illegal wagering on sporting events. Further education of student athletes regarding the dangers of gambling. Further education of coaches and administrators about the prevalence of gambling by student athletes. Outside of this particular study, there has been extremely limited research on the issues that surround student athlete gambling. As additional information becomes available more direct and consistent educational sessions, as well as informed dialogue that extends beyond the anecdotal accounts of particular incidents can occur. Developing a high level of awareness and intolerance towards gambling by college student athletes and athletic department staffs. While educators typically shun “zero tolerance” policies, failure to adhere to NCAA Bylaws regarding gambling should be met with severe consequences, including forfeiture of eligibility. ( no author given,, 2000)

There needs to be more research conducted in this field. Some good ideas on what to research would be to study additional football and basketball student athletes to confirm the extent and nature of gambling activities found in this research. Considering the low rate of return by male basketball players, additional ways to increase their response rate should be considered. Study all sports to establish an accurate measure of gambling behavior among student athletes competing in sports other than the traditional revenue sports. Determine the level of student athlete gambling compared to their non-athlete peers. It remains unclear at what rate student athletes gamble relative to the rest of the student body. Study coaches and administrators to determine if they are involved in gambling behaviors that could either harm the athletic enterprise or cause them to look away when confronted by student athlete gambling within their teams or programs. Studying referees and other game officials to determine their involvement with gambling activities that could compromise the integrity of college sports.

Nevada has the weapons and gaming board that runs casinos and makes sure that everything happens in a fair manner. Why is there no national board for collegiate gambling? The fact of the matter is the government looks upon collegiate sporting events as something that is of lower importance. This is where the government and our nation has gone wrong. Why put the morals that are taught in grade school away just because we are afraid of a few bookies. The government should take action.

Brian Gumbel on HBO’s hit series Real Sports said it best when he was giving a story on a young man who was caught shaving points at his NAIA college. He was the center for the basketball team and he told the story about how he shaved points. He was paid one thousand dollars a game just for missing a lay up once a game, and getting a few less rebounds. He was only in the NAIA so he never really had a chance at the NBA. Theone thousand dollars he made was really big money in his mind. These are the temptations that young student athletes have in today’s society. The government needs to inforce new laws so that the integrity of the game will not be lost forever.

To put it all in a nut-shell gambling is a horrible part of a game that used to be pure. It just goes to show you that no matter what sport there is, who you are, or where you are from gambling is always a major part of your society. A question you should ask yourself is, “How much better your society would be without gambling.” If you can answer that question truthly without saying that your society would be better without itafter reading this research. Then maybe you should go over the statistics and re-think your answer.


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