Gambling: The other ‘big game’ this weekend
Millions of New Jerseyans will hunker down Sunday night to watch Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, but some won't be rooting for a favorite team or simply enjoying one of the biggest party days of the year. They'll be biting their nails over bets they placed on the game.
Neva Pryor, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, reiterated that despite recent efforts by New Jersey legislators to defy a federal statute, sports betting remains against the law in the Garden State. However, that doesn't preclude people here from participating.
"Everybody does it," Pryor said. "Like I said, it's an accepted illegal activity."
New Jersey's latest appeal in the sports betting saga is set to be heard in a few weeks, too late for anyone hoping to wager a little money on the up-and-up Sunday. That includes a tech-savvy portion of the population who may be new to gambling, but no strangers to things like daily fantasy sports sites.
"A lot of times with the Super Bowl, adolescents and teens are making their first wagers during those times," Pryor said.
As we reported last year, many people aren't betting on just the outcome of the game. Prop bets -- like how long the National Anthem will be or what color Gatorade will be spilled on the winning coach -- provide ample opportunities for compulsive gamblers to try to make up some of their other losses.
Part of Pryor's job, and that of her organization, is to analyze the thought processes of these types of gamblers. That way, the council will be able to understand and try to mitigate the potential for addiction.
"'OK, I'm gonna spend this money,'" she said, delving into their mindset. "'Now I'm gonna be able to pay that other money back.' It's just like the person who picks up that first drink. Are they gonna be an alcoholic? It's hard to gauge that."
There is an even darker side to Super Bowl betting besides losing gobs of money. Suicide rates also increase among gamblers who don't bring home a big payday from the big game.
Even avoiding that extreme, the physical and emotional "hangover" is expected to affect work productivity next Monday, especially those who lost money in office pools.
"One-point-five million people are expected to call in sick, and another 4.4 million will show up late the day after the Super Bowl," Pryor said.
If you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, call the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey's 24/7, confidential helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. He was 10 years old when Peyton Manning was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.