One of the few personal problems I don’t have is that I don’t have an addictive personality. This is reflected in a few things, including the fact that in grad school I on several occasions went from consuming immense amounts of alcohol almost every day to total abstinence for an entire semester, or that I had an opium connect in my mid-20s that I took regular advantage of and then simply stopped using. Last NFL season was not my first go-round in sports gambling; I briefly had a bookie when I lived in Chicago. But it was certainly a volume of gambling that I hadn’t experienced yet. I can say happily that I had no problems, although this is less impressive when you consider that I kept winning, so had no opportunity to overcome the temptation to put good money after bad. But still, I am confident that I’ll stay solvent, thanks to some simple rules.
This post is not an argument that widespread online sports gambling is a good thing for society or everyone in it. I am in fact rather convinced that there will be some serious negative repercussions because of the rise of these apps. However, I am writing this to describe how I personally avoid being a problem gambler.
One app at a time.
This one is something of a handicap, as the gold-rush quality of app-based sports gambling stems largely from the promos and enticements that the major companies are pushing out there. Last year, a lot of people made a good deal of money just by grinding out promos from the apps. There were some silly incentives out there, designed to get people into the walled gardens by offering free money - the most absurd was “any player to score a point” in an NBA game, but there’s also “any time TD by any team,” etc. Sports gaming apps are like a lot of startups in that they’re burning cash in order to gain market share. Typically the apps mitigate losses by instituting small caps on how much you can bet, like $25. But I’ve heard tell of people who have made thousands by just finding those promos and grinding them out.
I’m not one of them. I’m keeping it to one app. (Draftkings, as it happens, but I chose it more or less at random.) In doing so I’m missing out on some promos and incentives. That’s not as big of a deal, as the truly absurd inducements seem to be fading in favor of more mild advantages. Still, I occasionally see one of the endless number of television ads offering a hefty advantage and get tempted. But multiple apps would take the very easy work of keeping track of how much I’ve bet and my wins and losses and make it hard, and I need to keep that easy. It could be tempting to fool myself about the amount of money I’m betting by splitting it between apps. I want to know at a glance how much I’ve wagered and how much I’ve lost.