Study on high school gambling goes national

by Caleb Thomas

Two Troy University faculty members are demonstrating that sports gambling is not limited to professional and college leagues, like some might think. 

Sports gambling has been an issue for over a century, with scandals such as the 1919 MLB Black Sox scandal, which saw the  rigging of that year’s World Series, leading to multiple players being banned. 

What started as a regional study, surveying high school athletes about sports gambling and their involvement in it, is now becoming a larger national study due to a grant from the International Center for Gaming Regulation. Troy professors Dr. Robert Mathner and Dr. Christina Martin are taking their study on gambling in high school to a larger scale. 

Gambling at the high school level can have a variety of impacts on both the games and on student-athletes, according to Martin. 

“The integrity of high school sports is in question,” said Martin. “Even beyond that, the mental health and well-being of these athletes [is at risk.]”

In their first study, Mathner and Martin sampled high school athletes from three southeastern states. This preliminary study revealed that 56.6% of high school student-athletes had wagered on sports before even entering high school and 46.4% of male high school athletes had wagered on sports in the last year.

 “The whole intent behind what we’re doing through the grant is to determine if the scope is really where these initial findings suggested it was or maybe that it’s not as big of a problem,” said Martin.

The grant allows Mathner and Martin to determine  if the results of the regional study align with what’s happening across the country. If the preliminary study is any indication, then there are plenty of opportunities to help remedy the issue, says Martin.

“If our numbers are correct, there are a lot of implications that could come as a result of a national study,” said Martin. “I think there are a lot of educational opportunities out there for school administrators, athletic directors, and coaches.”

Not only did the initial findings show that a sizable percentage of high school athletes have gambled on sports, but that some student-athletes knew of a teammate accepting money to play poorly or did so themselves.

The study showed that seven percent of respondents admitted to taking money or other compensation to influence a game. Additionally, five percent said that they knew a teammate did so at some point. Another nine percent of participants asked a teammate to influence the outcome of a game.

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