Phones can be addictive. Sports betting, too. Now we’re combining them.

VOX:

Remember when we decided that spending too much time on our phones was a bad thing? That immersing ourselves in our iPhones could be unhealthy, or even addictive?

That was a couple of years ago. So riddle me this: Now something that we already know is potentially addictive — sports betting — is available on those phones, accompanied by a media blitz promising a path to easy money. But people raising concerns about that combination seem few and far between. So what happens to the sports betting industry if someone — namely Apple or Google, which have enormous control over what you can do with your phones — decides they do have a problem with that?

Because whether you approve of gambling or not, it seems obvious that making it easily available to anyone with a phone and debit card, with few to no restrictions and a ton of advertising encouraging you to place your bets, is going to lead to problems for some people. This isn’t one of those stories about the unintended consequences we get from tech: It’s right there, on the surface.

“It is an epidemic in the making,” says Felicia Grondin, the executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, where online sports betting has been legal since 2018. Since then, she says, it has been easy to understand the impact: Before the summer of 2018, about 3 percent of the calls to her organization’s helpline for problem gamblers were from people who said they had sports betting problems. Now that number is around 17 percent.

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