Safer Gambling Discussion Touches On Recent Scandals

On Thursday, Sports Handle Associate Editor Mike Seely hosted a panel discussion organized by EPIC Global Solutions entitled “Safer Gambling In Elite Sports.” These elite sports were not steeplechase, polo or fencing, but rather mainstream endeavors that the proletariat cares about.

The participating convoy included Mark Hicks, managing director of enforcement for the NCAA; Martin Lycka, Entain's senior vice president for American regulatory affairs and responsible gambling; and EPIC's Ryan Tatusko, a former pro baseball pitcher and recovering gambling addict.

A thoughtful question from an attendee involved asking whether gambling education efforts should be extended to high school, something that received unanimous approval from the panelists.

“I have colleagues in the UK and Europe and they’re doing programs as young as primary school age,” said Tatusko. “I think getting people to understand the world they’re entering is never a bad thing. Gambling and other things like that could and should be brought up to understand there are healthy ways to enjoy things and be aware of when things are going awry. I think if you normalize those conversations, you normalize people coming for help when things start to go wrong, so I think it’s a great idea to have those conversations at a young age.”

Added Hicks, “When we have a student-athlete who’s dealing with a gambling issue, they almost exclusively say, ‘I began gambling before I came to college.'”

'Betting is as old as time'

The gambling world has dealt with its share of scandals in the past few months, ranging from Shohei Ohtani to Jontay Porter.

But is that actually a sign that the regulated market is working?

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“Betting is as old as time,” said Hicks. “We certainly have had scandals before there was legalized sports betting, so I don’t think legalized sports betting is the problem. The regulated market is working in that it allows us the visibility and the detection to understand these things. Is it easier to have some scandals? Maybe, in that there are a lot more people involved in betting day to day.'

“The betting industry has evolved and changed. I don’t think it’s made it worse. I think the regulated market is working. Could it be better? I think it can and I think it will be. It’s pretty juvenile here in the U.S. We’re all trying to find our way here, and we’re getting better and better at it. But at the same time, it can’t be ignored that the unregulated market is a problem and it hasn’t gone anywhere. There needs to be a focus on that as well.”

The hourlong session concluded with a question about what the future of gambling education will look like, and Lycka seized the opportunity to praise a recent BetMGM advertisement featuring NHL star Connor McDavid.

“We need ambassadors at the top of our sport who have bought into the responsible gambling cause,” he said. “If you’re hearing from someone you’re looking up to, that will reverberate strongly.”

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