WKU professor breaks down allure of sports betting


Anna Leachman

Photo illustration by Anna Leachman

Joseph Thompson, Women's basketball reporter

You most likely can’t watch a single sporting event these days without coming across ads for services like FanDuel and DraftKings, apps that look to grab the casual sports fan and entice them to try their luck at gambling.

The Supreme Court struck down federal restrictions on sports betting in 2018, allowing states to legalize the activity. In the following three years, 22 states have done so, and a bumper crop of sports gambling apps have hit the market.

Kameron Jackson, a 2020 WKU graduate who now lives in Chicago, uses FanDuel to earn money from sports wagering.

“I feel sports betting is good because it is a way for people to make money while watching the sport they love,” Jackson said. “It also can bring depression and mood swings because of losing, and fans struggle with their team losing and losing money.”

Rick Grieve, a psychology professor at WKU, has an active interest in studying the behaviors of sports fans. Grieve shared his thoughts on sports gambling, an activity that has seen massive growth after being pushed into the mainstream. The very act of betting on an event may be enough to completely re-energize someone’s interest in sport.

“For the small percentage of people who do wager on sporting events, it increases the excitement they have associated with the games,” Grieve said.

Grieve appreciates both the good and bad of the hobby, noting that the sports betting market has many ways to suck fans in.

“Daily fantasy games go on all year around, every sport has a daily fantasy game that you can interact with,” Grieve said. “You may not do that every day if you are just a casual fan, so I do think it increases your enjoyment if you seriously love sports.”

The hobby still has its own destructive properties. The allure of making big money while sports betting can lead to addiction, corruption and misplaced priorities.

“On the other hand, it does increase the likelihood people are going to have problems… gambling everyday, cheating and professional athletes shaving points,” Grieve said. “There are people who exhibit problematic behaviors with sports wagering. They gamble away their money, so they would rather pay off their bookie than make house payments.”

Grieve also shared why he thinks it took so long for sports betting to become a legalized activity. When athletes are raking in massive amounts of cash from their salaries, they become less incentivized to cheat to appease gamblers.

“You know when you are making $15 million dollars and I offer you $100,000 to shave points, you are going to laugh,” Grieve said.

For many, sport betting can be a fun, lighthearted way to spice up their sports fandom – as long as the negative effects are avoided. Jackson is one of many who are able to enjoy the activity to the fullest.

“Sports betting has impacted my life by giving me a hobby and an extra source of income,” Jackson said.

Women’s basketball reporter Joseph Thompson can be reached at [email protected]