It’s that time of year again! The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are one of the most highly anticipated sporting events, especially during a relatively quiet period for major professional sporting leagues. 

These games ignite numerous rivalries and passionate displays of fandom, but what’s even more prominent today is the prevalence of betting on individual games and the tournament as a whole. 

Undoubtedly, this can create an exciting environment amongst friends, but at what point can wagering money on sports have adverse effects? 

As more states start to legalize gambling for individuals aged 21 and above, college students have the opportunity to participate more than ever. 

This highly controversial topic has compelling arguments on both sides. 

Many individuals on the anti-gambling side point to the alarming mental health consequences on both players and consumers. 

A study from the Rutgers University Center for Gambling Study found that 28% of high-risk gamblers experienced suicidal thoughts. It’s also important to recognize that gambling addictions tend to intensify gradually and often without the individual realizing it. 

There is also the argument that young adults shouldn’t have the responsibility of making financial decisions like this. As many studies have pointed out, the brain is not fully developed until an individual’s mid-twenties. Moreover, young adults are often known to make rash decisions, especially when a chance at making money is involved. 

Mental health issues can be seen from the player’s side as well. When a player fails to reach a specific point total or misses a shot, there are numerous instances of bettors resorting to social media to verbally attack the player and their family. This behavior can be detrimental to a player’s mental health not just in maintaining their performance for their team but also in their personal life beyond the game. 

A majority of these issues can also be attributed to the marketing strategies employed in the gambling industry. Numerous celebrities promote these sportsbooks with special promotions targeted at first-time users, to get consumers, particularly those in the young adult demographic, hooked on the platforms and betting in general.

Despite the seriousness of this topic, completely removing sports betting would be virtually impossible due to the financial implications it holds for many individuals involved in the industry and the substantial growth of its market over the past half-decade. 

Instead, we as a society should provide more resources aimed at informed and responsible gambling through real-world examples and presentations of the consequences. Unfortunately, this is not as prevalent in the media because it does not sell to the masses, it is simply mentioned briefly in advertisements for legal implications. There needs to be a more ethical approach to marketing sports betting, especially during this time of increased legalization. 

Furthermore, sports betting offers several advantages, such as becoming more immersed in the sports world, especially with the increasing accessibility of sports media in today’s society, and providing an opportunity for bonding with peers, like participating in a March Madness bracket. 

As you continue to keep track of your brackets, remain cognizant of these issues, but also enjoy the tournament in a healthy manner as you see fit, whether or not it involves betting.

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