Let's face it. An addiction to gambling is, yes, a problem for banks. But, it's a much bigger problem than that.
American Banker just ran an article on banks and gambling: Why Gambling is Suddenly a Problem for Banks. The timing of this article makes perfect sense … to me, anyway, as there seems to be a significant increase in the marketing messaging around gambling … especially during NFL games.
It used to be beers that occupied the ad airwaves during football games. Now it seems to be brands such as DraftKings and FanDuel. There are sites, too, that hawk these brands, such as “Covers.” Here’s the kind of stuff you’ll find there: “New bettors that register with the online sportsbook today receive $200 in Bonus Bets, plus any cash winnings, after an initial $5 wager. The bottom line: Make an initial $5 qualifying bet and automatically receive an instant boost to your DraftKings account, regardless of the outcome of the wager and without the use of a DraftKings promo code.” Same as the commercials. These brands are spending big money hooking new customers with promotional offers
How big a problem is this? For starters, the impact of problem gambling stretches beyond the individual struggling to overcome it. Gambling addiction also has an inherent “social cost,” experts say; a cost that is paid by American taxpayers. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that the annual national social cost of problem gambling is $7 billion. These costs include gambling-related criminal justice and healthcare spending as well as job loss, bankruptcy, and other consequences. This number, the association says, is probably far below the actual cost as numbers are hard to track, and there's not a whole lot of research being done on the subject. Also, according to their site, and just as frightening is this: “60 to 80 percent of high-school students have gambled in the past year, and 14 to 19 percent either fit the criteria of having a gambling problem or are showing ‘signs of losing control.’” A February 2023 article in Money even went as far as to call sports gambling a “ticking time bomb” with “addiction at an all-time high and getting worse.”
According to a recent 60 Minutes segment titled “Sports betting boom fuels concerns about problem gambling,” 50 million men regularly bet on sports and Americans have spent more than a quarter of a TRILLION dollars on sports betting. A contributing factor that looms large? Placing bets has become easier than ever. Who needs a bookie when you can place a bet on just about anything, anywhere, anytime simply by opening an app on your phone?
Much like drug or alcohol abuse, a gambling disorder is a diagnosable, chronic mental health disorder. Studies have shown that society has a greater understanding of, and sympathy for, individuals who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Why? A gambling problem is viewed as one that’s far easier to control. In reality, problem gambling and substance abuse are very similar: Both come with higher-than-average rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal behavior. According to the National Association of Addiction Professionals, problem gambling has the highest suicide attempt rate (up to 20%) of all addictions.
How does gambling impact banks? The debt that comes with it. Research has shown that excessive gambling and debt are strongly connected. Those with clinical problem gambling often have high levels of debt and the severity of the gambling problem correlates with the amount of debt. A gambler’s debt can be secured or unsecured and research tells us that gamblers most often finance their debt with credit cards and unsecured loans … money management instruments with higher interest rates. Of course, in order to be profitable, banks need that debt to be paid. The worry right now, for the banking community, is that it won’t be. Which is why we’ve created ad campaigns on the subject. As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Bank Marketing Center
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