House of Cards | WORLD

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 3. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Hello. I am Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Coming next The world and all in it: Sports betting. In 2018, the Supreme Court opened the door to legalized sports betting in all 50 states.

REICHARD: This case was Murphy vs. NCAA. Since then, state lawmakers have been trying to get a slice of that pie. But at what cost ? WORLD Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson brings us this report.

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: As sports gambling matures, so do ads. Many of them.

THE AUDIO: [SOUND OF COMMERCIAL]

Did you catch that bet amount? Single digits. David Cranford is a pastor in Louisiana, a state where gaming apps like DraftKings and FanDuel went live last Friday. He says single-digit betting is part of the problem, especially for students.

CRANFORD: One of the advantages of online sports betting is that I can bet $1 or $2 at a time. I can start very small. I can start somewhere that fits my college budget. I mean, we’re all poor in college.

But for some people, gambling is addictive, just like alcohol or opiates.

THE AUDIO: [COMMERCIAL]

The US Gambling Research Institute reports that problem gambling affects 7% of Louisiana residents.

CRANFORD: Like most addictions, the desire will not stay small. They won’t be able to stop increasing their bets and so you’re going to end up with students who are absolutely addicted to gambling.

Being able to gamble with an app means betting has moved from back rooms to dorm rooms and even classrooms. Anywhere a gamer can look is a phone or laptop. You can place a bet with the ease and privacy of a touchscreen any time of day or night.

Last year, Americans bet more than $42 billion on sports as new legal markets came online.

THE AUDIO: [COMMERCIAL]

Students see and hear celebrities pushing gaming apps all the time. It’s the actor, Jamie Foxx. And this is NFL Hall of Famer Drew Brees.

THE AUDIO: [COMMERCIAL]

But Brees also partners with Pray.com, a religious social media platform.

Will Hall says it’s confusing. Hall is public policy director for Louisiana Baptists and he fought against Louisiana’s new gambling laws alongside Pastor Cranford. He has little patience for those who peddle vice, whether they be celebrities or lawmakers hungry for gambling revenue.

HALL: They ignore the negative impact on lives and families. I don’t know how, they have some kind of blinders. They just can’t see. That’s all I know.

Kathleen Benfield of the Louisiana Family Forum is working with Hall and Cranford to stem the tide of gambling. She says their condition runs deep.

BENFIELD: The gaming industry has replaced the oil and gas industry as the number one source of revenue for the state of Louisiana in terms of revenue and budget. . .

THE AUDIO: [COMMERCIAL]

But the game does not represent attendance. Or an economic tool. Instead, it’s the lure of quick money with no work, and someone always loses. Benfield thinks Louisiana will hit the jackpot — in broken lives and families.

BENFIELD: Basically, it’s a house of cards that will eventually collapse. The churches are the ones that are there as a safety net to catch people. . .

THE AUDIO: [GAMBLING TIPS]

But even in states where sports betting isn’t legal, it’s still a problem. Lilly Ettinger is on staff at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she’s watched students rack up six-figure gambling losses. She thinks part of the problem is that sports betting is “gamified”.

ETTINGER: It starts with kids playing loot boxes, online games, and microtransactions. And it starts with some really shiny pretty apps that make it look like a game and you don’t realize how much money you’re wasting.

Fellow staff member, Chaplain Dakota Henry, thinks students see gambling as a socially approved vice.

DAKOTA: If you’re betting on a team, you know, you’re showing team spirit. It’s not a sin, as people obviously don’t think about it.

That’s how Liberty law student Dylan Craig sees it – as a social activity. He and his friends have a betting group chat.

CRAIG: There’s always a guy who puts something in the chat saying, “Hey, you know, I’m going to bet on this game today.” I’ll put in $10,” and we’re all like, “Okay, cool.” We’ll ride with you. We will too. That way we all feel like a little community. . .

But the Bible is clear about the problems that arise when we fail to manage our money wisely. This is why Pastor Cranford says parents must educate their children about the trap of gambling, and he warns them to avoid the appearance of evil.

THE AUDIO: [COMMERCIAL]

CRANFORD: Don’t even go to those casinos to eat. Do not associate with them in any way, shape or form, because even that sends a message to our children. . .

If the statistics are correct, 75% of students have placed bets in the past year, according to the International Center for Responsible Gambling. That’s why Lilly Ettinger thinks we need to start talking about the implications of the game.

ETTINGER: So that’s the problem. Prevention. It’s, you know, talking to your kids early, talking to your little church groups early. You know, talk to your pastor. For example, when was the last time you heard a sermon on gambling in your church. These are things in terms of prevention, which we can talk about to have all the knowledge about the potential consequences of these actions.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Hammond, Louisiana.


REICHARD: Kim also wrote about it for WORLD Magazine. You can find his report on wng.org.


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