March Madness fuels legal gambling spike on college campuses

(NewsNation) — The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) March Madness is right around the corner, which means millions of Americans will be filling out their brackets and betting billions on games happening simultaneously across the nation.

Some participants will pick their winners on the advice of sports talk analysts and others will put blind faith in their alma maters, but the excitement behind the sporting event is expected to bring in tens of billions of dollars in bets as legalized gambling sweeps the nation.

In 2021, the American Gambling Association (AGA) said bettors wagered more than $57 billion on sports, and college sports were a big draw for gamblers.

More than 30 states now have legalized sports gambling, and sports betting companies are heavily advertising, especially on university and college campuses ahead of March Madness.

The problem is some of the higher learning institutions have made deals with sports betting companies, allowing them to advertise to students on campus.

Some students can’t resist the temptation, eventually getting hooked.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), about 67% of all college students bet on sports. However, the council said sports betting is the third most frequent form of gambling for students behind the lottery and card games.

The council said that about 6% of college students have severe gambling problems. While all colleges and universities have policies on student alcohol use, only 22% have a formal policy concerning gambling, the NCPG said.

The NCPG has even provided grants to some schools to promote messaging about “responsible gambling,” and said AGA sports betting shouldn’t be advertised or promoted on college campuses at all.

David Danzis, a lead writer and analyst for, said legalized sports betting has certainly attracted a younger demographic, including college students.

“It’s beholden on both state regulators and these legal sportsbooks to do all they can to make sure that everybody is gambling responsibly if they choose to do so,” Danzis said.

He isn’t sure if there is a clear answer to whether sports betting should be banned on universities, but he said some universities have taken it upon themselves to impose sports betting bans on campus.

“I think colleges need to take this seriously and start educating their student bodies about the dangers of gambling. And they also need to start providing resources to these students should they need them,” Danzis said.

NewsNation spoke with Tulane University student Ryan Mack in New Orleans who said he hasn’t seen any sports betting promotions on campus. However, he said students are betting and it’s very easy to become addicted to sports gambling.

“With the whole gambling thing, it’s an addiction obviously. It’s a dopamine addiction so you’re getting rewarded from gambling with that dopamine and if you don’t get the hit then you going to keep on wanting the hit,” Mack said.

Opponents of on-campus sports betting believe it’s only a matter of time before a major scandal rocks college sports because of schools’ close working relationships with sports gambling companies.

NewsNation writer Devan Markham contributed to this report.


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