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New Mexico Research: Sports betting and booze fuel risky behavior

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Roz Brown

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(New Mexico News Connection) In just six years, the U.S. has pivoted from a complete ban on sports betting to a place where it is legal in most states, and young men could be paying a heavy price.

Joshua B. Grubbs, associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, found in his research risky types of drinking -- both heavy and binge drinking -- often go hand in hand with sports wagering.

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Grubbs analyzed data from more than 4,000 adults across the country who shared their drinking and betting habits. He said excessive drinking can lead to problematic betting behaviors.

"With sports gambling in particular, it tends to appeal to young men -- and we already know from past research that watching sporting events is associated with drinking more -- it's the common American hobby of, you watch the game, toss back a few beers with your friends," Grubbs noted.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to adopt sports betting, although it is still illegal in 12 states, including the two most populous, California and Texas. New Mexico does not allow online betting, but does allow "in person" betting at a handful of tribal casinos.

Grubbs pointed out on average, gamblers report more frequent binge drinking episodes than the general public but episodes among sports gamblers are considerably higher than either group. Because people drawn to such activities are typically younger, they are also more impulsive, which he said makes it important to set a "loss limit," a firm amount of money they are willing to lose.

"If you go into gambling saying, 'I'm going tonight with my friends to the casino, I have a $100 I can lose and I'm willing to lose $100 to have fun with my friends.' If that mentality is something you stick to, you're very unlikely to have a problem," Grubbs contended.

Grubbs added while there are designated federal research funds for drug use or alcohol misuse, they have not been used for treating gambling addiction, despite clear links between gambling and substance use problems. The research, funded by the International Center for Responsible Gaming, was published on the JAMA Network Open.