For decades, New Jersey has been a national leader in the legalization of gambling, from casinos to online sports betting. Now in a state where the percentage of compulsive gamblers is three times the national average and half of middle schoolers gamble, legislators are weighing a bill that would teach high school students the difference between luck and predictable reality.
“We should do everything we can to help these kids understand the risks [of online gambling] and how to make rational decisions,” Assemblyman Dan Benson, co-sponsor of the gambling education bill, told the SportsHandle website. One of the bill’s more rational mandates: provide students with lessons on “probability versus predictability.”
Efforts to help young people change their views about luck would be a timely antidote to the latest survey by the NCAA. The college sports giant found 58% of 18- to 22-year-olds engage in at least one sports betting activity and, among the riskiest players, 70% believe “consistent sports gambling will increase their monetary earnings.”
The NCAA prohibits athletes or coaches from participating in sports wagering on any sports activity. Yet nearly a quarter of male collegiate athletes bet on sports last year. With a majority of states having legalized sports betting since 2018, the NCAA is finding it difficult to maintain what it calls the “purpose and meaning” of sports – let alone support universities in teaching the superiority of reason and knowledge over the superstition of luck. Sports-betting scandals this year at NCAA schools in Iowa and Alabama have further forced the association to beef up education programs aimed at preventing the corruption of games by athletes and staff.
The college scandals have served as a wake-up call for all youth sports. “Let’s maintain the purity of high school sports” from the rise in gambling, said Karissa Niehoff, head of the National Federation of State High School Associations, in a May 24 video.
No other country has so much of its gambling market focused on unpaid amateur athletes, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. The sudden increase in sports betting among young people has finally led to a rethink of new ways to preserve the honest competition of sports – with its displays of excellence – as well as the teaching of virtue and merit over a belief in luck. If the New Jersey bill passes and students are taught to discern what is predictable and true, the state may become a leader of a different sort.