Sports Bettors More Likely to Binge Drink, Study From UNLV Concludes

Many sports bettors aren’t only risking money when they gamble but possibly their health, too. That’s according to new research conducted by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) in conjunction with the University of New Mexico.

A new report from UNLV and the University of New Mexico concludes that sports bettors are likelier to binge drink. The research findings suggest more work into the correlation between the two risky endeavors is needed. (Image: Shutterstock)

The report, “Double Trouble: The Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Sports Wagering,” concluded that sports bettors are nearly two times as likely to binge drink than non-sports bettors. The study included esports and fantasy sports players in the sports bettor segment.

Our study suggests that sports bettors appear to use alcohol in particularly risky ways,” said study co-author Shane Kraus, a professor of psychology who serves as director of the UNLV Behavioral Addictions Lab. “Therefore, more education is needed to inform people about the possible risks of heavy alcohol use while also wagering on sports.”

The study surveyed more than 4,300 adults across the United States. About 3,300 reported consuming alcohol within the past year, and 1,800 said they participated in sports gambling.

Poll Takeaways

Researchers determined that sports bettors who drink were “at least” 1.9 times more likely to report excessive drinking — defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in a single session. Binge drinking increased as gambling frequency rose.

The findings, researchers say, demonstrate additional evidence that sports bettors and gamblers are more prone to risk-taking. And that risk-taking often leads to dangerous health habits like binge drinking.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six adults binge drink, with 25% doing so regularly, or weekly. Many people who binge drink, the federal health agency says, are not dependent on alcohol. However, such excessive alcohol consumption “is harmful on its own.”

The CDC says binge drinking can lead to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and liver disease. Certain cancer risks are also elevated by binge drinking, including liver, colon, rectum, mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and breast cancer.

Binge drinkers are at heightened risk for sexually transmitted diseases because of risky sex, as well as violence such as homicide, suicide, partner abuse, and sexual assault.

The UNLV/University of New Mexico survey found increased rates of binge drinking among both male and female bettors. The researchers concluded that there is “an immense need” for ongoing research, “particularly to examine how novel gambling technologies influence the prevalence, presentation, and prevention of alcohol use disorders and related harms.”

Rapid Market Expansion  

Once confined to Nevada, bookies, and illegal offshore websites, sports betting in the U.S. has become part of mainstream culture since the Supreme Court struck down the federal sports gambling ban in May 2018.

Before the landmark ruling, only Nevada offered betting on single-game outcomes. Other states such as Delaware had sports betting, but only parlay options that involved combining several bets into one were allowed.

Over the past six years, sports wagering has become accessible to most individuals in the U.S. via mobile applications or websites,” the study explained. “Increasing evidence suggests that sports wagering is associated with greater substance use and misuse, particularly alcohol, and symptoms of alcohol use disorder.”

Today, there are 38 states, plus Washington, D.C. that allow sports betting. Thirty-one of those jurisdictions include online sports betting.

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