Massachusetts joins NCAA, sports teams to address youth gambling

Top Massachusetts officials joined NCAA President and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker Thursday to announce a new initiative aimed at addressing the public health harms associated with youth sports gambling

BOSTON — Top Massachusetts officials joined NCAA President and former Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker Thursday to announce a new initiative aimed at addressing the public health harms associated with youth sports gambling.

Baker said these damages extend not only to young people who place bets, but also to student athletes who are under intense pressure from bettors who hope to profit from their individual performances.

Baker said he spoke with hundreds of college athletes before he officially stepped into the role of president about a year ago, and he said they talked about the tremendous pressure they feel from classmates and punters about their individual performance.

“The message I kept getting from them is that there’s so much of this going on, it’s very hard for us to stay away from it,” he said.

Baker said student athletes pointed to classmates who wanted to talk to them about “how is so-and-so doing? Is he or she going to be able to play this weekend? What do you think your chances are?”

“It was exactly the same conversations I had with my classmates and schoolmates in the 70s. But back then it was just chatting in the cafeteria or the dining hall,” added Baker, who played basketball at Harvard University. “Now it’s currency.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell said that since the state legalized sports betting in 2022, a bill signed by Baker, Massachusetts has essentially become a market participant.

That puts a burden on the state to make sports betting as safe as possible, she said.

“Think a little. We’re putting an addictive product — gambling — on a highly addictive device, your smartphone,” she said. “We’ve gone from sports gambling being illegal almost everywhere to being legal in dozens of states in the whole country in just a few years.”

In Massachusetts, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to bet on sports or in casinos.

Because young people will be influenced more by the teams they support than by state government officials, Campbell said it’s essential to create a public/private partnership like the new initiative she unveiled Thursday, the Youth Sports Betting Safety Coalition .

Campbell said coalition members include the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, Boston Bruins, New England Patriots, New England Revolution and the NCAA. The goal is to create a sports betting education, training and safety curriculum for 12- to 20-year-olds, she said.

NCAA data found that 58% of 18-22-year-olds have engaged in at least one sports betting activity, while the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that about half of high school students are estimated to have taken up some form of gambling. luck, Campbell said. .

Baker said the NCAA is pushing states with legal sports gambling to ban “prop bets” — short for prop bets — which allow gamblers to bet on the stats a player will accumulate during a game rather than the final score. .

Baker also said the NCAA’s survey of students found they were betting at essentially the same rate whether it was legal for them or not. It also found that one in three student athletes have been bullied by bookies and one in 10 students have a gambling problem.

“It’s basically a 50-state issue, even though it’s only legal in 38. And if you think kids under the age of 21 aren’t doing it, you’re kidding yourself,” he said at the press conference at TD Garden of Boston.

He said the ugliness and brutality of some of the messages on the social media platforms of some of the athletes in the NCAA tournaments is disturbing.

Last year, NCAA officials considered a bettor a serious enough threat to a team that they gave them 24/7 police protection until they left the tournament, he said.

“For student-athletes in particular, this is an extremely challenging issue, and for many of those who are really under the spotlight, as many will be here tonight, it’s just another thing that I think all of us will we would like to see it taken off the table,” he said.

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