Gambling’s Growing Role in Sports: March Madness and Beyond

basketball hoop and backboard in stadium

March Madness is upon us, and the name seems to be more and more appropriate. In the four years since New Jersey legalized sports betting, athletics of all types and played in all seasons have been co-opted by gambling to a degree that defies reason. To counter the industry’s advertising assault and online access to betting, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) has undertaken an “Inform and Empower” initiative during March’s National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, dedicated to detailing the risks that accompany gambling of all types. 

It is likely that many people will develop a gambling problem given the increased gambling opportunities and the abundant ways to bet on sport events. Young men are particularly vulnerable to sports gambling, since many may turn their love of sports into a hope of winning big. Online sports betting platforms will readily exploit fans by offering free plays and other incentives and to entice gamblers who think they know enough to beat the odds. 

Not long ago, professional sports leagues distanced themselves from betting since they recognized the potential for cheating and the negative impact on their image. One of the best-known examples of this zero tolerance approach was baseball declaring Pete Rose persona non grata for his betting on himself and his team. But in recent years, professional leagues have embraced gambling with a vengeance. One cannot watch or listen to a game without hearing talk of the odds, the spread, the over under and the half-time score. Wagers can be placed on mainstream sports or those that are obscure, such as well as cricket, darts, and lawn bowling, to name just a few. But while gambling options seem endless, betters’ bank accounts are not similarly bottomless. 

Football’s recent “Big Game” illustrates the huge spike in betting in New Jersey in recent years: in 2019, the total amount wagered on the NFL title game was $35 million; this year’s game saw just under $144 million in bets – an increase of over 300 percent. Most likely March Madness will see a similarly dramatic betting bounce.

In response to the surge of sports betting access and marketing, the CCGNJ will present a webinar on March 25, 2022 at 11 a.m., entitled “Sports Betting in New Jersey – March Madness and Beyond.” The discussion will outline how legal sports betting has transformed sports and will provide insight as to what the environment is likely to be in the future. The webinar will address questions such as: Will gambling sites sponsor sports stadiums? Will we see players’ uniforms plastered with betting outlets? Will players shave points off the margin of victory to affect the spread? One only needs to look at what has happened to the England’s Premier League to see how betting can come permeate every facet of a sport and its fan-base.  

To Register for the webinar, go to:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to the webinar. 

CCGNJ will Inform and Empower throughout Problem Gambling Awareness Month and all year long. For more information about CCGNJ’S mission and work, contact Communications and Prevention Specialist Daniel Meara at (609) 588-5515 ext. 117 or

And please remember, if you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, please call 1-800-GAMBLER; we are here to listen and provide support, treatment and hope. 

Best wishes, 

Felicia Grondin, MBA

Executive Director


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