Bet on it

Gambling seeps into teen life through rise in sports book apps
Bet on it

Staring at the ceiling, senior Rushil Shah struggles to fall asleep, resisting the urge to check his phone after having placed several bets on the winners of the night’s National Basketball Association games. Little does Shah know, a big change is in the works. In December, the Department of the Interior announced that illegal bets or wagers were being placed through sports betting companies in Florida, which is a violation of a 2021 compact Gov. Ron DeSantis signed with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The ruling confirmed The Seminole Tribe as the only organization permitted to operate a sportsbook — Hard Rock Bet — within the state, making all other sports betting websites illegal as of March 1.

“I’ve warmed up to Hard Rock Bet and I think it’s a great platform, especially in terms of replacing the other apps,” Shah said. “This ban cleared the stage for Hard Rock Bet to dominate the country’s sports-betting pool if bans are made on the apps in other states.”

Sports betting allows gamblers put money on specific players and game outcomes through websites including Sleeper, Prize Picks, Draft Kings and Fan Duel. Most of these apps offer special deals such as a “six-time money multiplier” to keep players betting. Most sites require betters to invest at least $5 on a bet. However, these websites lack the robust safeguards necessary to prevent minors from participating in underage gambling. According to an anonymous junior, it is easy to imitate someone — such as an older brother, sister or parent — with a picture of their ID.

“I only used Prize Picks because it was the easiest to me,” the junior said. “I used my friend’s ID because he was 18 and I was just turning 16. The ban on the apps disappointed me because they increased the legal age along with removing the uniqueness of being able to bet on certain players scoring, which was offered by apps like Prize Picks. Hard Rock changed the whole dynamic because of the laws.”

Minors can look at their phones and see promotion of these apps from their favorite professional athletes. Currently, there are no punishments for underage gamblers or gambling organizations because it is hard for companies to detect minors. Additionally, due to the recent laws, it is harder to gamble underage in Florida because of Hard Rock Bet’s security that requires Social Security Number, ID and a photo ID for access.

“I was getting really attached to [sports betting], but a part of me is kind of relieved that I didn’t go further down that path and that the laws kind of got rid of the apps I would use,” the  junior said.

The Hard Rock Casino in Tampa is owned by the Florida Seminoles Tribe, which will profit an estimated of $1.3  billion to $1.5 billion, according to EGR Global. This is money other companies are missing out on, and state economic forecasters predict revenue sharing from tribal gaming could total $4.4 billion by the end of this decade. The Seminoles operate seven casinos in Florida and they own the Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos business, which has locations in 76 countries.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 60 percent to 80 percent of high-schoolers have gambled in the past year, and 14 percent to 19 percent claim they have let their hobby turn into an addiction. reports that “more than 20 percent of compulsive gamblers end up filing for bankruptcy because of gambling losses.” Shah said the effect of gambling could have imperiled his own financial life.

“I lost some money, and when I would lose bets, it motivated me to pursue the losses and try to make back what I put in,” Shah said. “It’s a vicious cycle that is hard to escape.”

The harmful effects of sports betting also apply to the players themselves. West Shore Basketball Coach Corey Burton said betting can result in foul play on these fan-favorite teams.

“Obviously it’s a slippery slope on how you view betting in general,” Burton said. “It shows through players making bets on themselves and getting banned from the league. You even see them get their friends and family to try and throw bets,” Burton said.

Florida is one of 21 states to ban prize picks and other similar apps to limit financial damage to users.

“I’m glad that regulations are being put in place to help prevent underage gambling,” Shah said. “I think that Hard Rock Bet will make it more difficult for players to try and influence the game.”