New Poll Reveals Sports Betting’s Impact on Young Adults in Massachusetts

As Massachusetts navigates its first year of legalized sports betting, concerns about its impact on young adults have been at the forefront of public discourse. A recent CommonWealth Beacon/GBH News poll conducted by the MassINC Polling Group sheds light on the evolving landscape of sports betting in the state and its implications for the younger demographic.

Most Bettors Can Safely Engage with the Hobby

The poll surveyed 1,002 Massachusetts residents, uncovering a nuanced picture of sports betting among 18- to 29-year-olds. While roughly 30% of young adults reported having placed a sports bet in the last year, only about 10% did so at least once a week. Most young bettors indicated that their wagers were infrequent and of moderate amounts, typically under $20

However, a notable subset admitted to betting more frequently, raising concerns about potential addiction risks. Marlene Warner, CEO of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, underscored the need for vigilance in addressing problem gambling, especially among vulnerable populations. Warner emphasized the importance of robust measures to safeguard against gambling harm while acknowledging that most individuals can wager safely.

There will always be vulnerable people for whom gambling becomes an at-risk behavior, and then problematic, and then maybe all the way to the disordered level.

Marlene Warner, Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health CEO

The discussion extends beyond sports betting to include other forms of gambling, such as casino gaming and lottery participation. Interestingly, while sports betting has gained traction among young adults, participation in casino gambling remains relatively low. This shift in preferences underscores the evolving landscape of gambling behavior among millennials and Gen Z-ers.

Several Groups Face Increased Risks

While the poll revealed higher rates of sports betting among men across all age brackets, it also highlighted disparities based on income and education levels. Surprisingly, individuals with higher incomes and educational attainment were more likely to engage in sports betting, challenging stereotypes about gambling demographics.

The data showed mixed sentiments regarding the online sale of lottery tickets, with a notable age and gender divide in opinions. While younger men generally supported online lottery sales, older respondents, particularly women, were more skeptical. Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell has emphasized the need for stringent regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of consumers, particularly youth.

Amidst debates about the expansion of gambling options, including online lottery sales, concerns about addiction and responsible gaming practices loom large. As Massachusetts grapples with these complex issues, policymakers must balance economic interests with public health considerations. The ultimate goal is to foster a safe and responsible gambling environment that protects vulnerable individuals while supporting revenue generation for the state.