DOES THE MEDIA PROMOTE GAMBLING ??

You would not expect to open your local newspaper and get a price list of illegal drugs for sale; But that’s just about what you can get today when you open your local newspaper to the sports pages all over the country. True, you don’t see drug prices but you do see lines and point spreads on sporting events. Illegal drugs can’t be bought, legally in any state. You can’t place a legal bet in America, except in Las Vegas. I know it’s in because it sells newspapers.

There are ads in newspapers for 800 and 900 numbers that sell information to gamblers. Some of these ads read : “Get the game of the month free”, “We pick 75% winners”, “Last week we went 11 for 12”, and “ Get our lock of the week”.

I still can’t believe that newspapers carry ads from these so called handicappers, who are really scandicappers. It’s also interesting to note how often the information is incorrect.

I remember going to speak at Northwestern University a few years ago. That day I read in USA Today that Danny Sheridan wrote: “Northwestern was a million to one to win the Big 10”. Well, they did win the Big 10 and went to the Rose bowl. I also remember when the Dallas Morning News had a gorilla in the Dallas Zoo make football picks for them. The gorillas’ picks were doing better than the sports writers.

If you read the Sports Illustrated Story, written by Tim Layden in April of 1995 about gambling on the college campus, you now know what every youth on a college campus knows; gambling is running rampid on every college campus. Odds and point spreads have become a normal topic of conversation amongst these students. Gambling is as available as a can of beer or a pack of cigarettes and the student bookmakers get the lines they use straight out of their local newspapers.

In 1982 I was involved with trying to help a compulsive gambler who was an ex college star athlete. He owed $350,000 in gambling debts. It all started five years before when he played a football ticket for $5. No doubt the person providing the football ticket got the lines from their local newspaper.

Picture the following scenario: A young man uses the lines and odds from his local newspaper and uses it to set up a bookmaking operation in the local town pub. A law officer comes in and arrests the bookmaker and players. The next day the headline in the paper says: “ John Doe Arrested For Bookmaking and Hank Smith Arrested For Illegally Betting”. Hypocrisy you say? The very newspaper that carried the lines, now is carrying this headline.

It seems to me that the message we are sending the youth of America is: Education is not necessary. You will be able to make your life fortune by pulling a slot machine , buying a lottery ticket or winning a bet on a game.

The NCAA understands this issue as they have discussed taking away press credentials at the Final Four, from newspapers that carry the lines.

Sports betting is a big problem for compulsive gamblers. I used to run a national hotline and 47% of the callers were sports bettors. Because compulsive gambling is an Impulse Control Disorder (as stated by the American Psychiatric Association), reading the lines in the newspaper can often trigger a gambling binge. Some recovering compulsive gamblers can’t buy a newspaper because of the anxiety it causes. I don’t see much difference between casinos serving free drinks to an alcoholic or newspapers putting lines out for compulsive gamblers to read.

Years ago only some newspapers carried the line. Now you can rarely pick up a newspaper that doesn’t. You also never heard electronic media discussing odds. Today it is common to hear such a discussion. Recently someone told me that they heard a commentator on a national TV football game say: “They covered the spread.”

• Years ago I was on a TV show with Howard Cossell (ABC Sports Beat). The topic was: Does the media encourage the public to gamble? Bobby Knight, Indiana basketball coach, said: “A newspaper who published point spreads should also publish names and addresses of services that render to prostitutes. They practically have the same legality in every one of our states, and I can’t see why one is any better than the other.” On the same show former baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn said: “Anything that encourages gambling on team sports bothers me. We all look hypocritical but than why are we putting up the odds unless we are trying to encourage it.” David Stern, NBA commissioner said: “We don’t want the weeks’ grocery money to be bet on the outcome of a particular sporting event.”

I would like to pose a few questions:

• Do point spreads in newspapers cause a proliferation of gambling?

• Do people see point spreads in the newspaper and think it is legal to place a bet?

• Does the media entice people to gamble?

• Does the media have any responsibility for the increase in numbers of compulsive gamblers in America?

• Does the media give the appearance that it promotes and condones gambling?

I think the responsible thing to do would be for newspapers to carry a public service message (Need Help For A Gambling Problem? Call: 1-888 LAST BET).

written by:

Arnie Wexler

Arnie and Sheila Wexler Associates

213 3RD Avenue

Bradley Beach, NJ 07720

561 200 0165

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