Harvard Study Will Look At Problem Gambling And Professional Athletes

Written By Derek Helling on June 27, 2020

There is little data on the awareness and prevalence of compulsive gambling issues among professional athletes. A new problem gambling study will address that lack of information.

Harvard University’s Cambridge Health Alliance will collect responses from athletes nationwide over the next two years. The results could help many parties make gambling safer for all.

The details on the problem gambling study

Cambridge has partnered with EPIC Risk Management to perform the study. EPIC is a consultancy firm that specializes in reducing compulsive gambling liabilities.

Cambridge and EPIC will develop a survey and distribute it to professional athletes in 14 locations. While a release doesn’t name New Hampshire specifically, it does mention “the New England region.”

The release doesn’t specify any further demographic information about the intended survey respondents. It does specify three areas the survey will attempt to gather data on. Those are:

  • The current state of gambling and gambling-related problems among professional athletes
  • Any correlation between gambling and gambling-related problems and working as a professional athlete
  • Professional athletes’ key gambling and gambling-related problem actions, awareness, and experience

In order to understand the value of this data, it’s important to identify why this study is necessary. The intended survey respondents’ career path makes them ideal subjects for this research.

Why this compulsive gambling data is important

Professional athletes are among the most vulnerable populations when it comes to compulsive gambling issues. For that reason, it’s unfortunate that similar research doesn’t already exist.

Among factors that lead to this vulnerability for athletes is lifestyle. Athletes face pressure to maintain a certain standard of living that correlates to having large salaries.

That can lead to athletes spending big and eventually resorting to gambling to pay for those ever-growing spending habits. This isn’t the only reason they are vulnerable, though.

Professional athletes are often used to promote gambling companies, which puts them in the gambling environment. Additionally, pro athletes are among the most vulnerable populations in terms of match-fixing schemes.

Such schemes aren’t necessarily the stereotypical scenario of someone offering an athlete money to lose on purpose. It can be as subtle as a gambler probing for insider information relevant to an upcoming event.

The study will help establish some data about the frequency of these situations and the awareness level among athletes about problem gambling. Such findings could help many organizations improve their practices.

Possible benefits of the athlete gambling study

Like any other data set, the value of the results of this study is in their application. Hopefully, many organizations will glean some insight.

Education is one of the best tools for combating problem gambling. These findings could help professional sports franchises and the leagues they belong to, along with athletes’ unions, educate players about the dangers of compulsive gambling for themselves and others.

Additionally, non-profit and state agencies should benefit as well. The lessons learned about what is and isn’t working could be broadened to improve treatment outcomes for the general population where appropriate.

Lastly, this study should help gambling operators. With better information available, they can enhance safeguards to protect everyone with problem gambling issues, not just professional athletes.

While professional athletes are among the most vulnerable people when it comes to gambling compulsions, their stories can help society learn about the issue. More knowledge should prove useful in battling this type of addiction.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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