Youth sports gambling crisis

Massachusetts launches collaborative effort led by AG Campbell and NCAA President Baker to safeguard youth from sports betting perils

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell.
Reading time 1:42 min

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell and former governor, now NCAA president, Charlie Baker joined forces Thursday to unveil an initiative aimed at tackling the burgeoning issue of youth sports gambling in the state.

Campbell, addressing the assembled press, sounded the alarm on the dangers posed by the rapid expansion of sports betting, particularly among the youth. "We're thinking about putting an addictive product – gambling – on a very addictive device, your smartphone," she cautioned.

"We've gone from sports gambling being illegal nearly everywhere to being legal in dozens of states throughout the country in just a matter of a few years."

Former Governor, now NCAA President, Charlie Baker

Baker echoed Campbell's sentiments, highlighting the challenges faced by student athletes who find themselves targeted by bettors seeking to profit from their performances.

Drawing from his own experiences as a former collegiate athlete, Baker emphasized the prevalence of gambling-related pressures faced by young sportsmen and women. "It's basically a 50-state issue even if it's only legal in 38. And if you think kids under the age of 21 aren't doing this, you're kidding yourselves," he asserted.

The newly established Youth Sports Betting Safety Coalition, comprising government agencies, professional sports franchises, and educational bodies, aims to develop comprehensive education and training programs targeting individuals aged 12 to 20.

Marlene Warner, CEO of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, stressed the urgent need to address problem gambling among young people, citing alarming statistics and real-life stories of individuals grappling with addiction and financial ruin.

The coalition's mission, according to Campbell, extends beyond mere awareness-raising to actively promoting responsible gambling behavior among Massachusetts' youth. The involvement of major sports organizations such as the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, and New England Patriots underscores the gravity of the issue and the collective commitment to effecting positive change.

Meanwhile, Baker urged states to consider measures to mitigate the negative impact of sports betting, including the prohibition of proposition bets – wagers on individual player performances – which he argued contribute to a hostile environment for student athletes.

"This is bigger than athletes," Campbell emphasized. "This is bigger than college students... When we say we're going back to middle school, there's an intentionality around that, based on the behavior that we're hearing from school administrators across the Commonwealth."

The initiative comes at a crucial juncture as Massachusetts grapples with the challenges of regulating a rapidly expanding gambling industry. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC), convened on the same day, discussed the issue of sportsbook operators limiting winning customers' bets, prompting calls for transparency and accountability in the burgeoning sector.

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