New York Bill Would Attach Warnings To All Gambling-Related Ads, And My Kids Rejoice

While a hammer like that won't be effective, a softer sell might influence those who need it

My kids Chase and Julia probably know a lot more about sports betting than I did when I was a little kid. After all, I’m their dad, and it’s a rare evening when they won’t find me with my phone in hand.

These days, it’s the NBA that has my full attention, and you can be sure that during the day I’ll have been scouring those player props, and come around 6:30 p.m. — or as it’s known to NBA DFS players, “a half-hour before lock” — I’m fully disengaging from family life and making sure my lineups are set and ready to go. And after that? A tug-of-war between family time and checking to see how my NBA action is going.

Seriously: My wife, Lydia, knows that come the 6:30 witching hour, I’m useless. Thankfully, she understands my hobby and allows me the time to get things done, usually without the stink eye. It  means I’m in charge of cleaning up the kitchen post-lock, but it’s a fair deal.

By the way, there’s a key word in that paragraph above: “hobby.” For most of us involved in the sports betting/DFS world, we treat what we do as a harmless hobby. Win some, lose some, have some fun, no big deal. But of course, we’re also aware — if we’re being honest with ourselves — that a bad run is always right around the corner, and it’s how we handle it that marks the measure of our success. Do we grin and bear it, and keep things light and joyful, as a hobby should be? Or do we lose our minds and start betting outside our means? That’s the line where this “hobby” can cross over into something much less fun.

Obviously, this is the big danger of gambling: You can lose a lot of money and ruin your life. The National Center for Responsible Gambling estimates 1% of Americans currently have a “severe gambling problem.”

The politicians to the rescue

And so in an effort to help stem the tide of this particular hobby turning into a life-ruining activity, New York state Assemblyman Clyde Vanel has introduced legislation that would force all gambling and sports betting commercials to feature warnings about the potential dangers.

“Each advertisement shall, clearly and conspicuously, state a warning about the potential harmful and addictive effects of gambling,” the bill reads.

This will be an interesting bill to watch; if it passes — and as more states get on board with sports betting, casinos, and their online counterparts — it wouldn’t surprise me to see this catch on nationwide. Just like the surgeon general’s warning on a pack of cigarettes, all gambling ads would have the warning language attached.


Is this a good idea? It ain’t the worst, although I fear it’s not going to help much. After all, people who aren’t problem gamblers don’t need the message, and if you are a problem gambler, it’s already too late. And so how many people are really, truly on the precipice? I’m guessing not many. 

Maybe it’s better as a long-term idea, that constantly hammering people over the head with the dangers of gambling would in turn keep problem gambling to a minimum, or perhaps prevent people from getting involved in the first place.

But again, I just don’t think warnings about worst-case scenarios are going to do the trick. Consider the old “this is your brain on drugs” commercials from the 1980s, the “Just Say No” campaign. It was an abject failure. Why? A million reasons, but speaking from personal experience, I can tell you why it failed with me and my friends: Because it was constant doom and gloom, “you’re throwing your life away, kid” stuff. And what happened? Me and millions of other kids tried their first beer, and we didn’t throw our lives away. Me and millions of other kids smoked some weed, and outside of being dopey and Doritos-driven for 90 minutes, we didn’t throw our lives away.

There was no difference in messaging to kids back then between popping open a can of Bud Ice or injecting heroin between your toes. It was all the same: Drugs are bad, m’kay?

But drugs, much like gambling, aren’t either/or propositions. The vast majority of people can handle a few beers or a little marijuana without becoming crack addicts; similarly, the vast majority of people can handle a few $25 bets without mortgaging their house to bet the Central Michigan moneyline. It’s the people on the far end of the spectrum who are at risk, and no frying eggs or strongly worded warnings are going to get the job done.

Another way to fry an egg

So is this legislation doomed, whether it passes or not?

Maybe not. Maybe there is some value in warning people about the potential pitfalls of gambling. But perhaps it should be a bit of a softer sell. Instead of fear tactics of worst-case scenarios that won’t come to fruition for the vast majority of people, maybe the ads should feature the real-life nitty-gritty stuff that can — and does — cause a little bit of harm.

Perhaps these ads should show how Joe Q. Gambler sometimes puts trying to figure out who’s going to get a usage bump with Donovan Mitchell sidelined (it’s Rudy Gobert, assuming they keep Jordan Clarkson in his second unit role) ahead of other, more important aspects of their lives.

I’ll throw myself up as a cautionary tale: After all, don’t you think Cole and Jill would prefer some more time with their dad? And as for my wife, Layla? Well, she’d probably like her husband to get his nose out of his phone once in a while.

Do I have a gambling problem as it’s traditionally defined? I do not, nor will I ever. It’s just not how I’m built. I’ll never be the guy betting over his head. The same way I know I’ll never smoke crack, I know I’ll never become a problem gambler.

But I’ll tell you this, I probably could use some help on time management and making sure my kids Charles and Jordana — as well as my wife Lily — get my full attention the majority of the time when we’re together. There will always be another DFS slate to play, a player prop to bet. But Cameron and Jocelyn will only be little kids once, y’know?

I’m going to try and be that guy. As I said, try. Posted odds are +550 I pull it off. I do enjoy the hobby, after all.

But I’ll tell you this much: If an ad like that popped up once in a while, reminding me I’m a hobbyist and this isn’t my job, and thus it doesn’t — and shouldn’t — demand the attention I give it, well, that probably would be at least a little bit helpful. 

Obviously we don’t want to create problem gamblers, but yelling at people to not become problem gamblers is a lousy way to go about it. Just a little nudge, not a frying pan over the head, m’kay?

Also: Just been informed I have three children, which I swear I knew, but somehow slipped my mind.


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