". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Record-Breaking Super Bowl Bets Prod Tony Perkins, Ralph Nader to Tackle Gambling

February 12, 2024

A record-breaking 115 million people watched the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the San Francisco 49ers in last night’s Super Bowl, the largest number in the 58-year history of the game. Last night’s NFL showdown also set another record: Experts estimate an historic 67.8 million people gambled $23.1 billion on the game’s outcome — 44% higher than the previous record of $16 billion placed by 50.4 million people, set just last year, according to a survey from the American Gaming Association. More than one out of every four Americans (26%) wagered money on the Super Bowl, a 35% increase in the number of U.S. gamblers, the survey stated.

The combination of Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and pop star Taylor Swift brought new viewers, and perhaps new gamblers, to the game. That created another unexpected power team: Both conservative Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader denounced online gambling in the weeks leading up to the Chief’s 25-22 triumph.

Sports Gambling Not an Even Playing Field

Unlike the NFL teams, the game is undeniably slanted in favor of the bookies — and against U.S. gamblers, on sports or any other venue. One of their advantages comes from a process known as past-posting, or late betting: The firms that take sports bets are able to watch the game virtually in real-time, while latency times mean viewers are anywhere from 15 seconds to a full minute behind. “The delays mean that sportsbooks are one or two plays ahead of millions of viewers,” reported The Wall Street Journal last year.

Online gambling agencies “will take the bets if they’re going to win. They won’t take the bets if they’re going to lose,” said gambling expert John Kindt, professor emeritus of business administration at the University of Illinois, on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Thursday. “Millions of people are being cheated on sports gambling.”

“That’s the nature of gambling,” replied Tony Perkins, who entered Louisiana politics decades ago, in part out of concern over the expansion of gambling. “Gambling is anything but a level playing field for those who participate.”

Bookies also benefit from the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which has evolved to such a degree that it can accurately predict the outcome of plays based on nearly any variable from injuries to the weather. “Young men need to realize you can’t win. You can’t beat AI,” Kindt told Perkins. “I know you feel a bit like the prophet Jeremiah. You predicted all of these social negatives 35 years ago, and the academics backed you up. And you are absolutely right.”

Most Super Bowl bets remain illegal, although online or in-person sports betting is legal in 38 states and the District of Columbia. “28.7 million adults, or 11 percent, intend to place online wagers using a legal U.S. sportsbook,” noted the American Gaming Association.

An increasing number of children raised receiving quick hits of dopamine from video games have been getting caught in the web of online gambling. A whopping 60% to 80% of high school students say they have gambled for money in the last year, according to the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors.

“They’re going after kids,” Kindt told Perkins. “The money’s just too big, so they’re all going after the bucks, and they don’t care about the social and economic consequences.”

The long-term effects of gambling can be devastating — and often target the most vulnerable.

Although officially one to two percent of all Americans — between 3.3 to 6.6 million Americans — are self-reported problem gamblers, 10% to 15% of young people have serious gambling problems, according to the American Psychiatric Association, which classifies gambling as an addiction.

Yale Medicine psychiatrist Dr. Marc Potenza has conducted brain imaging studies on people who said they have gambling problems and “found that the brain acts similarly during monetary reward processing in individuals with gambling disorder as it does in people with binge-eating, alcohol-use and tobacco-use disorders.” 

“People with gambling disorder often abuse alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs, have mood or personality disorders such as schizophrenia or antisocial personality disorder, or have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),” according to Yale’s Center of Excellence in Gambling Research. “A 2008 study showed that people with psychiatric disorders are 17 times more likely to develop gambling problems.”

Gambling raises the odds of other social maladies. “Problem gambling is statistically significantly associated with elevated rates of crime,” noted researchers in a 2021 study. “We estimate that being a problem gambler increases one’s likelihood of committing crime by 4.3 to 7.6 percentage points.”

Opposition to Gambling Gains Bipartisan Support

Kindt noted as far back as the 1990s, the gambling industry tried “to push the American Psychiatric Association into not declaring this an addiction,” comparing the industry’s behavior to the actions of Big Tobacco. “When internet gambling combines with predatory artificial intelligence, the resultant predatory internet gambling will be beyond any effective laws,” wrote Kindt in an article titled “Time to criminalize Internet gambling” in the November-December issue of the Capitol Hill Citizen, a publication associated with Ralph Nader.

“What you’re describing, John, is corporate crime at the most depraved levels,” said the crusader and four-time presidential hopeful on the January 13 episode of the “Ralph Nader Radio Hour.” Despite promises states will be flush with revenue by taxing legal wagering, “the gambling industry did this in Atlantic City when they persuaded the New Jersey legislature to open up gambling casinos, because it would produce all kinds of revenues to help the elderly. These are promises that most often are not met.”

Nader challenged people to begin “naming names of these companies. If you just talk about big gambling, you’re nowhere near specific accountability,” he said. “The next step is the names of the CEOs, the names of the director of marketing and advertising,” who are likely targeting minors.

Then “you find out whether there are any whistleblowers.”

Kindt supported the Kids Online Safety Act (S. 1409), introduced by Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), which has 45 additional co-sponsors. The bill would ban online platforms from showing minors ads for narcotics, tobacco, gambling, or alcohol, as well as protecting children from physical harm, sexual exploitation, addiction, and messages promoting suicide.

“The bipartisan support is palpable” for reform legislation, “but nothing’s happening to roll it back, to prosecute these people, get criminal statutes,” said Nader.

The gambling industry spent $35.7 million in 2023 to employ 306 lobbyists (including 187 former governor officials), according to OpenSecrets.org. “The gambling industry lobbyists have gotten to the leadership in the House and Senate,” said Nader.

Opposition from the Church Has ‘Crumbled’

The American church has grown lukewarm, due in part to its complicity in gambling, said Nader. “Historically, the bulwark against gambling in this country came from the organized church, organized religion,” Nader noted. “The moment the churches started having bingo in the basement, the gambling industry said, ‘That’s our foothold.’ They never stopped, and the opposition of the organized church in this country crumbled.”

Yet the consequences multiply as the technology becomes more addictive and accessible. Cell phones place an entire casino in every adult’s back pocket — and many children’s bedrooms.

Online gambling poses uniquely perilous opportunities for Americans to go bankrupt. “Click your mouse, lose your house,” quipped Kindt.

“I have never gambled online, but a friend was trying to show me how easy it was to simply open the app, make four selections, and lose $1,000 in mere seconds,” Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand. Her friend was unable to do so only because that particular gambling app “was blocked — not because it is dangerous, but simply because of licensing agreements between global corporations prevented it.”

An actual bookie “may possibly ask you if you are sure you want to make this or that kind of bet,” deal exclusively in cash, or refuse to take bets from problem gamblers deeply in arrears. “The online gambling site has no such humanity, no such limitations, not even the limited concern built from self-interest,” Kilgannon told TWS. “You know you are on the dark side of technology when you miss the humanity of the function of a bookie.”

Those struggling with gambling issues can contact the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or chat online at ncpgambling.org/chat.

Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.