Minnesota Teenagers At Risk From Expanded Gambling, Expert Warns

Written By Adam Hensley on April 29, 2024

Before Minnesota legalizes sports betting, the state must consider the effects it will have on the younger population.

Legislation must provide the necessary resources and funding to promote responsible gambling to teenagers, Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling Executive Director Susan Sheridan Tucker told PlayMinnesota.

“We have 250,000 Minnesotans who are currently indicating some problems with gambling. About 56,000 would likely be diagnosed with a gambling addiction. And we have 6,000 high school students who are indicating that they are having issues with problem gambling. And that is a great concern to us because we know that the gaming industry constantly needs new customers.”

In-game betting can be ‘a recipe for disaster,’ Sheridan Tucker says

Minnesota already has several resources available to promote responsible gambling. Some include:

  • Minnesota Lottery’s problem gambling’s help page
  • Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling’s website
  • Minnesota Department of Human Services’ problem gambling hub

Sheridan Tucker told PlayMinnesota that more resources need to be a part of any legislation that expands gambling options in the state, especially education geared toward teenagers.

Her organization favors Senate File 5330 over the other bills to legalize sports betting in Minnesota. The bill, authored by Sen. John Marty, places an emphasis on responsible gambling.

In addition to setting aside 75% of sports betting revenue for problem gambling, SF 5330 would outlaw live, in-game wagering. That’s been a hot topic, as that type of betting has skyrocketed recently. Operators view it as a vital piece to their revenue, while opponents believe it can lead to more bettors chasing their losses.

It also leads bettors to place more bets, Sheridan Tucker said.

“What is happening in other states with legalized sports gambling is that they’re allowing prop bets, in-game bets – all sorts of bets. Not just the game, but anything related to the game. For people who have a propensity to gambling addiction, that can be a recipe for disaster. There’s no friction that gets created. They can just continually bet.”

Gambling addictions can take root at an early age

Of all the different betting demographics, the younger generation is one that needs the most help, Sheridan Tucker said. There are several more options now at betting than ever before.

More teenagers and children have smartphones than in previous years, and it’s something lawmakers need to keep in mind when crafting responsible gambling measures, Sheridan Tucker said.

“We just rolled out a toolkit for high school teachers and coaches. We’re trying to reach out to as many people as possible to make them aware. It’s not about judging people it’s about offering them educational materials in which they can make more prudent decisions.”

She said the industry is normalizing the prospect of gambling. It’s less taboo than it was six years ago when the US Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting and made it a state issue.

In her conversation with PlayMinnesota, Sheridan Tucker stressed the need to treat a gambling addiction like you would a substance abuse problem. And it can start from a young age.

“Research does show that the younger somebody is exposed to gambling, the greater likelihood they could have an issue as an adult. I have listened to hundreds of recovery stories, and I would say 90% of them have indicated that they were gambling a very young ages.

“It starts out innocently – you don’t have a gambling addiction at the age of 9. But it’s about normalizing. What happens is that something happens in their lives as they’ve gotten older – stress, something traumatic – and the natural thing is to seek out what makes you feel better. If you have fond memories of gambling with your grandfather or sitting at the racetrack with your dad, whatever it is, that’s what you’re going to seek, because you’re hurting and you don’t know where else to turn.”

Sports betting advertisements creeping into everyday life

Children and teenagers can be exposed to sports betting through television and streaming. Turn on any sporting event and you’ll see advertisements from sportsbooks. More and more professional sports teams have their own sponsorship deals with sports betting operators.

One example is ESPN and Penn Entertainment. The two partnered together last year to create an online sportsbook, ESPN Bet. ESPN is still learning how to navigate the rocky path of promoting gambling while still operating as an unbiased news outlet. Recently, host Rece Davis slipped up when talking about the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, calling one bet a “risk-free investment.”

Teenagers hear that, Sheridan Tucker said.

“Children do not know how to self-regulate. They don’t understand basic odds. And we’re exposing them to an activity that definitely has risks. We know the frontal lobe doesn’t get fully developed until the age of 25.

“I don’t know how many times we have to learn these lessons. We saw this happen with tobacco and advertising and alcohol. Alcohol isn’t allowed to be advertised most of the hours of the day and certainly not on certain programming outside of sports. But we’ve acknowledged that this is not a healthy thing to advertise when kids are typically in the audience. This is common sense to me … . We need to hold the operators and licensers accountable to predatory advertising.”

Sheridan Tucker said she would like to see no sports betting advertisements at schools. Just last year, student-athletes in the neighboring state of Iowa were suspended from competition as a result of a gambling probe.

“Why would we, knowing already that this is an issue, pass a law that allows this to happen. Why make the same mistakes that other states have made?”

SF 5330 would prohibit sportsbook operators from advertising in any medium where 10% or more of the audience is under the legal betting age of 21.

Problem gambling options available for young Minnesota residents

Sheridan Tucker emphasized that all problem gambling treatment in Minnesota is free.

Minnesota residents, even the younger generation, that may be suffering from a gambling addiction or believe they’re exhibiting patterns of problem gaming are encouraged to call 800-333-4676. They can also text “HOPE” to 53342 for help.

Additionally, the Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling’s website offers a helpline chat, Sheridan Tucker said.

“(Problem gambling) is a public health issue. And we need to treat it as such. And do the best that we can to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Photo by Shutterstock
Adam Hensley Avatar
Written by
Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

View all posts by Adam Hensley
Privacy Policy