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Expert: Use Common Sense Making Online Super Bowl Wagers

The Super Bowl is on this weekend, and people ready to try sports-betting apps will no doubt want to get in on the action.

Online sports betting is legal in about a dozen states, including Michigan and several others in the Midwest.

Casino apps with sports betting make it easy to use a smartphone, tablet or PC to place wagers, but experts are warning users to proceed with caution.

Michelle Malkin, assistant professor of criminal justice at East Carolina University, has studied problem gambling. She said commercials for sports-betting apps can be very persuasive.

"It looks like fun, there's all these bonuses and things like that," Malkin observed. "But we aren't necessarily educating individuals on what are the signs of having a problem."

In its first two years, online betting apps have become a big business in Michigan. In 2022, internet sports-betting operators made almost $220 million in Michigan, according to the state Gaming Control Board.

Malkin warned all it takes is one losing streak after an initial win to fall into a financial trap.

She pointed out some of the options on the apps can make it especially hard for younger adults of legal gambling age to know when to stop. She emphasized most college-age students' brains are not yet fully formed, and they could mistakenly view online sports betting as an income source.

"It's a huge incentive, especially for people who may not have a lot of money," Malkin cautioned. "Because they're young, and they don't have careers set up yet that are giving them a healthy income, to think that gambling might be an answer to financial difficulties in their life."

She pointed out a smartphone app gives a person the ability to make bets nonstop, even on individual plays, not just the outcome of the game.

She added the so-called "free money" offered to new customers has to be used for betting and cannot be withdrawn. Ads often include information about problem gambling, but Malkin thinks there should be stronger warnings.

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