The NFL and college football seasons are well underway and are proving again that they are the kings of TV sports viewership. Depending on the day and game, viewership is at about the same levels as last year, after rebounding from COVID-19 lows.

And as anyone who has watched football — or other major sports including basketball, baseball and hockey knows — gambling appears to be at latest part of the rage. Some advertisements offer incredible promotions where people who sign up and provide a credit card or bank account number can win $50 for a $1 bet on what would seem to be a sure bet, such as a team that is a heavy favorite scoring at least one touchdown. (No, this not an editorial warning about the ills of gambling on society.)

In all fairness, the overwhelming majority of people who bet or play fantasy sports don’t have a gambling problem nor do they develop one. So what could go wrong? Well, according to three researchers at Xavier University in the Williams College of Business, they found there can be some potential problems with fans and their behavior regarding sports. Their findings were published in September 2021 in the Journal of Business Research.

Some of the highlights included that a decrease in positive emotions drives the negative effect of sports betting. So, is this a new problem? Wouldn’t some of these negative impacts have been discovered by now since people have been betting on sports for decades and playing fantasy sports for at least 30 years?

Possibly, but gambling on sports is bigger now than ever. And fantasy sports continue to draw more players, with many sports announcers even offering advice on players to start — or talking about their fantasy teams during broadcasts. It’s as if statistics and who scores is more important than real game results.

Sports gambling took off after May 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was unconstitutional. In many places where sports betting was illegal, it is now legal. And as the researchers noted, this would seem to increase fan engagement and create new revenue streams for leagues and teams.

“Although many believe sports betting will lead to positive marketing outcomes for leagues and teams, we question whether it can also lead to negative marketing outcomes. Across two experiments, consumers who bet on the home team and lost reported lower positive emotions and subsequent fan engagement than consumers who did not bet.”

“Furthermore, consumers who bet on the home team and won did not report higher fan engagement than consumers who did not bet. Thus, we uncover a potential drawback of legal sports betting, which has major implications for leagues and teams that embrace it.”

If this research proves to be correct, sports could be hurting themselves in the long term. Much of the interest no longer is just about love of the team, but gambling and who scores. It’s almost like too much of a good thing can actually be harmful.

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