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Sunday's Super Bowl is expected to be a record-setter for sports betting, raising alarm

Usher shows the Super Bowl LVIII ring during the Super Bowl LVIII Pregame & Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show Press Conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on February 08, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic
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Usher shows the Super Bowl LVIII ring during the Super Bowl LVIII Pregame & Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show Press Conference at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on February 08, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

About 1 in 4 Americans plan on betting a staggering $23 billion on the Super Bowl this weekend according to the American Gaming Association. The record-setting amount has raised alarm nationally, and in Connecticut, where online betting continues to grow.

“The brain is complex,” said Dr. Marc Potenza, a psychiatrist and the director at the Center of Excellence in Gambling Research at Yale. “There are some features that seem to cut across gambling disorder and substance use disorders, particularly with respect to how people process rewards.”

Potenza said he’s not worried about who’s going to win this year’s Super Bowl. He’s worried about who’s going to bet on the game and how much.

The volume of betting participation this year is projected to be 35% higher than last year, which was the previous record.

In Connecticut, more than 100,000 people have a gambling disorder, which adversely affects more than a quarter of a million family members each year, according to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

Since Connecticut legalized online gambling in 2021, the organization said contact with its problem gambling helpline surged 90%.

“Gambling helplines throughout the United States, including within Connecticut, have been reporting increases in people seeking help for gambling problems, particularly young adult males,” Potenza said.

CT stands to profit off Super Bowl

Sports betting is legal in 38 states, plus Washington, D.C. States can make money off of it by licensing third-party operators to take bets.

In Connecticut, so far, those sportsbooks report that the Kansas City Chiefs are getting much more action from bettors than their opponents, the San Francisco 49ers.

When bettors lose, the operators get their money. The state of Connecticut also wins because it taxes that money, at a rate of 13.75%. But when a majority of bettors win, operators have to pay out a lot of bets — and that’s money the state can’t tax.

Barring a dramatic betting shift, a Kansas City win would cost Connecticut, similar to the way Rhode Island was impacted by a New England Patriots win in 2019. The state’s sportsbooks lost more than $2 million, when the hometown Patriots beat the Rams in the Super Bowl that year.

Federal bill could help fund gambling addiction programs

Potenza said people choosing to gamble this weekend should set limits on how much they bet.

Nationwide, millions of American adults suffer from gambling addiction, according to The National Council on Problem Gambling. The agency says that number could grow as more states legalize sports gambling.

Potenza is hopeful federal lawmakers will pass a recently introduced bill called the “GRIT Act,” which would fund more programs for gambling addiction prevention, treatment and research.

“If it gets passed, [it] should provide much needed help for the estimated 7 million U.S. citizens experiencing gambling problems,” he said.

Currently, about 10% of people with a gambling problem seek help, he said.

If you need help with gambling disorder, call the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling at 1-888-789-7777 or Gamblers Anonymous in Connecticut at 855-222-5542.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.
Frankie Graziano is the host of The Wheelhouse, focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.