December 3, 2015
Is Betting on Fantasy Sports Addicting?
“The best adrenaline rush ever,” says one of the barrage of fantasy sports commercials broadcast into living rooms this football season.
An adrenaline rush is known to be a hallmark of addiction to other types of gambling, which can trigger the brain’s pleasure center much like the triggers in a drug addict’s brain, according to University of Cambridge psychologists.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Americans are playing fantasy football and other sports online for money. The Internet has made this so accessible that it could facilitate the rapid-fire betting associated with problematic gambling.
Playing fantasy sports is “as easy as ordering a pizza online … [or] texting your friends,” a relapsed gambler told the New York Times. He said he lost nearly $20,000 on football, tennis, and Japanese basketball. And losing is easy but the odds of winning are long: an investigation by the New York State attorney general found that 1 percent of players “receive the vast majority of the winnings” paid out by two prominent sports fantasy websites.
There are degrees of gambling problems, ranging from small or large financial losses – personal bankruptcy filings have been associated with it – to ruined lives. Dr. Jorge Mario Rodríguez-Fernández, a therapist at Columbia University’s Gambling Disorders clinic, said fantasy sports players, mostly men, are definitely vulnerable to becoming compulsive gamblers who take bigger and bigger risks.
To determine if your or someone else’s gambling is out of control, he suggests this self-assessment questionnaire on the Columbia clinic’s website, which is based on the NORC Diagnostic Screen for Gambling. It asks questions like this:
- During the last six months, have you needed to gamble more and more money to get excited?
- Have you been preoccupied with gambling or been thinking about how to get money to gamble?
- Have you lied to family members, friends or other important people in your life about your gambling problems?
To answer all 10 questions asked by the Gambling Disorders Clinic, click here.