It’s probably no coincidence that stories about gambling are everywhere on Day Two of the Qatar World Cup. Gambling sites will surely be asking punters to place their bets on match-ups and likely outcomes of the group stage matches, the finalists, the eventual winner and so on.
Big bets will be placed. Fortunes will hang on the result of what happens with Brazil. With France. With Senegal, sans Sadio Mane.
The BBC and The New York Times have major pieces on gambling, the so-called silent addiction, as well they might.
With 63 games (as of the morning of Monday, November 21) left to go in the world’s biggest sports event, it stands to reason that sports betting will soar.
As the NYT notes, betting on live sports was illegal in most of the US until a 2018 Supreme Court decision. In the intervening years, professional sports in the country became “part of a multibillion-dollar corporate gambling enterprise”. It represents, the paper says, the largest expansion of gambling in US history with at least $161 billion in wagers placed since sports betting was broadly legalised. Gambling sites have gone to great lengths to ensnare the very youngest, the paper’s investigation has found, with at least eight American universities, including Michigan State, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Louisiana State University agreeing to become paid partners, which means the promotion of gambling on campus.
Can there be any greater symptom of the sickness within our supposedly modern capitalist system?
In the context of how debilitating and dangerous gambling can be, it’s worth having a listen to a conversation on the BBC World Service between Sandra Adell, of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Lisa Walker, a community outreach worker with the UK charity Betknowmore.
Both women, despite their very different backgrounds – one is an American professor of literature; the other is now a British charity worker – share something dreadful. They were addicted to gambling and almost lost everything, only to recover and remake their lives.