For Better or for Worse: how social media propels sports gambling

June 7, 2023

A search of social media makes for quick results: “First prop to add today…” “Subscribe for more bets like this one…” “Let’s have a day!”

These are the ideas that dominate the world of sports gambling Twitter. It’s always a race to find the next big bet, to get in on the group that will win and, ultimately, to have a profitable day of betting. Social media has become a home for nonstop discourse about gambling on sporting events. It has built communities of bettors, for better or for worse. And it is fueling a digital revolution in a space that has existed long before the internet.

Decades ago, sports betting was certainly alive and well, but it looked very different than it does today. Illicit gamblers had to find and work with a bookie, an illegal betting facilitator, without being found out by authorities. Betting was closely associated with organized crime in the era of prohibition and gained a poor reputation. Overall, it was not something gamblers could do out in public, like they might play the lottery or take a trip to Las Vegas. 

So, the internet’s influence combined with legal actions that decriminalized sports betting have radically changed the landscape of this industry. Online betting opportunities would be bad enough for opponents of gambling to grapple with.

But now enter social media: along with the quick and easy betting opportunities provided by digital sportsbooks, communities for discussion and collaboration can now exist on the sports betting sections of Twitter and other social media platforms. Content creators have emerged like they would for any other popular hobby, while groups and followings have coalesced around certain spaces in the digital world.

For some, this form of community can be beneficial: it provides for fun discussion opportunities and potentially profitable collaboration. It’s entertainment, social interaction and financial advancement all in one place.

However, a closer look reveals some concerning tendencies in how social media is influencing those who are interested in sports betting. For example, one popular concept on Twitter is that of the so-called “bankroll builder.” This tool, promoted by many content creators, is one meant to build up the “bankroll,” or funds available for betting, of gamblers. Ostensibly, bankroll builders are supposed to be low-risk bets that are likely to easily add some cash to bettors accounts, allowing them to later use those funds for bigger bets. However, clear problems exist with the very basis of this idea: all bets have risk, and none are so likely to “hit” that they can be counted on for added funding. In fact, if these bets truly worked so reliably to add cash to gamblers’ accounts, they would simply become the main bets people made and bankrupt the industry.

In this concept and others, deceptive marketing and questionable offers of opportunity can be observed. Those who promote these ideas will often additionally promote their own subscription options, through which followers can make monthly payments in exchange for the tips and advice of the content creator they follow. Again, this is a proposition that is unlikely to produce its supposed value. Such subscriptions are only worthwhile if people make more of a profit than they pay in subscription fees. Doing so consistently appears to be difficult. 

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been lost in even single states since sports betting was legalized in recent years. In Illinois, for example, bettors lost over $812,000,000 from March 2020 to May 2022, according to the state’s Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. Such losses pain individuals and profit major sportsbook companies. And the internet and social media are only working to fuel them.

Overall, the promotional nature and questionable offerings of social media spaces in regards to sports betting are quite concerning. Time will tell whether further regulations may be needed to rein in these concerns.

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