ENC gambling researchers react to legalization of sports betting

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Sports betting will be legal in North Carolina very soon for both mobile and in-person, because of House Bill 347.

It officially launches March 11th at noon, but North Carolina bettors can register and fund accounts on approved sports betting apps starting March 1st.

Dr. Michelle Malkin, ECU Gambling Research and Policy Initiative Director says, “Individuals will be able to deposit funds into those accounts and wager on amateur and professional sports in a variety of different athletic sports.”

Betting will start just in time for the men’s ACC basketball tournament, or March Madness – which starts March 17th.

Along with easy access on mobile devices, bettors can also place wagers on their favorite teams in person at approved locations.

Action Network says legalizing sports betting can increase tax revenue, boost business for local sports bars, and generate more funding for youth sports and collegiate athletics, but Malkin, who studies gambling, says there are concerns following her recent study of gambling in college students in North Carolina.

“12 out of the 16 UNC campuses participated in that study and what we learned is, about 60% of our college students are gambling in some way already, with about 30% of them betting on sports already, and we see a higher likelihood of wagering in our male undergraduate students,” Malkin told WITN.

The easy access to mobile sports betting is also concerning because Malkin says gambling addictions can start quickly. “As we see an increase in the prevalence of gambling, we also see an increase prevalence of risky behavior, gambling-related harms, and potentially individuals that we can identify with gambling disorder, which is the medical name for problem gambling.”

Stop Predatory Gambling Director, Les Bernal says gambling is also a problem nationally. “Predatory gambling is America’s most neglected major problem across the country, including in North Carolina.”

Overall, Bernal and Malkin believe getting ahead of the problem can help.

“Start talking to the young people in your life about how dangerously addictive these forms of government are, just like you talk to your kids about hardcore drugs and other dangerous things in society,” Bernal says.

Malkin also told WITN, “That comes though with the responsibility that, as you’re getting tax dollars and funding, that some of that is returned to those suffering with gambling-related harms.”

For those who struggle with gambling addictions, Malkin says the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Gambling Program can help.

As registering and funding apps start tomorrow, March 1st, some of those available apps include FanDuel, BetMGM, ESPN Bet, and Ceasars Sportsbook.