Free sports betting options still lead youth to losing money

With sports betting increasing in popularity, there is a rise in concern over youth betting on sports amongst experts.



Experts have concerns that free-betting options for sports lull people into a false sense of mastery that results in them losing money.

“There’s a lot more free play apps and sites for people,” said Adrienne Cossom, a Vancouver gambling counsellor. She explained it’s an invitation to, “‘hey, give it a try, you don’t have to bet money.’”

Sports betting apps like Yahoo Fantasy and FanDuel allow minors to place free bets on sports, so often when they become the legal age to gamble, they bet large amounts of money.

Cossom said when anyone starts with these free betting options they can easily be “set down the path” of gambling addiction and financial losses.

Sports betting has the highest percentage of returning players among any type of gambling among youth as 25 per cent of youth aged 12 to 18 place multiple sports bets a month, according to the McCreary Centre Society. Even card and dice games, which have more total students participating, see fewer kids returning to bet a second time.

Cossom said that people with experiences at a young age gambling have an increased risk “for gambling getting problematic later on.”

Fantasy sports

Many students who bet on sports started by playing fantasy sports online when they were teenagers. Fantasy sports leagues allow players to draft athletes to their team which then their line-up of players compete against other people. Fantasy leagues can have prize pools but also enable free options so anybody of any age can play.

Langara business students Jordan Kupillas and Graeme Pratt both played fantasy sports before starting to gamble with real money as soon as they turned 19.

Kupillas said he has friends who sports gamble every day, after seemingly getting hooked at a young age.

“They do it every single day and it’s getting to be a bit of an issue,” said Kupillas. He said some of his friends have gotten to the point where they are asking to borrow money to place bets.

Sports betting has become increasingly popular in Canada due to intensified and effective advertising campaigns. In Ontario, sports betting ads featuring pro-athletes were banned in August, and the ban will be implemented in February 2024 because of concern of their influence on youth. As a result, young adults have been surrounded by advertising for sports betting apps in recent years.

Some students think there need to be changes with legislation amidst concerns from experts.

“It’s terrible, especially with these younger kids that are you know just turning 19 and they see all these athletes,” said Kupillas. “Ontario just made a thing to stop it so hopefully British Columbia follow in their footsteps too.”

Sports betting companies use high-profile athletes like Connor McDavid and Wayne Gretzky to advertise their apps because people are more likely to use products endorsed by celebrities, according to Ana Gupta, a Langara marketing professor.

Sports betting apps are becoming increasingly available and advertised to people as the online sports betting market grows, said Cossom. Recent legislation in Canada allows sports betting on single games. Since the introduction of Bill C-218 on Aug. 27, 2021, Canadians have been able to bet on single-game events, such as NHL games, UFC fights and NASCAR races.

Over three million people in Canada started sports gambling in the past year and 10 million have joined since single-game betting was implemented, according to

Unlimited bets at your fingertips

But some students believe the advertising is not the problem with sports betting apps.

Pratt said the issue is not seeing pro-athletes promoting sports betting apps. Instead, he says the problem is how easy it is for young people to go online and place a bet.

“There’s just constantly games every night,” Pratt said. He said every day is a betting opportunity for people addicted to sports gambling.

“It’s all digital, so it makes it really easy for people to access,” Pratt said.

Director of the centre for Gambling Research at UBC, Luke Clark, said the risk with sports gambling is that people think they know a lot about the sports they are betting on.

He said sports bettors often think “that this might be an easy way for them to make money,” added Clark, who also teaches psychology at UBC.

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