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Dopa Bowl

Scott Galloway@profgalloway

Published on February 16, 2024

Other than AI, gambling may be the fastest-growing $10-billion-plus industry in the U.S. A record 43 million Americans (1 in 6 people over the age of 18) bet on this year’s Super Bowl, wagering a total of $23 billion, a 35% jump from last year’s total. Next month, twice that many could bet on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The media loves to catastrophize about AI, but, relative to the upside, the risks may be greater with gambling. There’s little chance gambling will make health care and education more accessible. And while the potential downsides of AI make for better clickbait, the risks of gambling are known and serious. However, the externalities feel less urgent. Why? Because the costs are (mostly) levied on young men and (mostly) tallied in isolation. Our nation has decided that problems facing almost every special interest group are, correctly, deemed issues that warrant study, empathy, and investment. But the issues affecting young men are viewed as a function of their lack of character that could be solved if they just “got their act together” or “were more in touch with their feelings.”

Leaving Las Vegas

In 2018 the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports gambling, and 38 states have now legalized some form of it. It’s now an industry with annual revenue of $7.5 billion. Other online forms of gambling, operating in a legal gray area, are also growing quickly. But this hasn’t led to an upsurge in local business activity. Who has swallowed all this revenue? One guess: the tech industry. If you’ve watched any televised sports in the past few years, you’ve probably caught Kevin Hart, Jamie Foxx, and Charles Barkley hawking online gambling apps. They’re earning their money. DraftKings and BetMGM have seen their revenue increase 5x and 11x since 2020. FanDuel’s Irish parent, Flutter, listed on the NYSE last month, where it garnered a $37 billion valuation — more than Kia or Kroger.

Gambling has moved from something you do in isolation — at a geographically remote casino, using an illegal bookie, or socially in the context of a special event — to something available 24/7 on your phone. That has predictably accelerated the gambling business’s growth and brought billions into the sector. Just as banking’s move to smartphones morphed a tech-bro incel panic room into a bank run, our frictionless proximity to wagering is having effects we haven’t fully witnessed … yet.

The Las Vegas of … Las Vegas (Wall Street)

In truth, online gambling is larger than these figures suggest. Because there’s another industry we don’t list as “gambling” that we should. Online stock trading was a $10.7 billion industry in 2023. A meaningful portion of that is people managing long-term investments and providing growth capital for companies. However, the bulk of revenue generation comes from churn/trading. Customers use these apps to get in and out of stocks and buy elaborate, high-leverage derivative instruments. Online stock trading app Robinhood built its business on a stack of illegal and suspect business practices, paying fine after fine on the way to its IPO. Studies show that 97% of day traders lose money, but the house wins 100% of the time: Robinhood “crushed earnings and revenue estimates” for Q4, reporting $471 million in revenue on February 13, a 24% year-over-year increase. In the press release touting the results, the company said it was “building features for active traders.” There is upside here: Robinhood has introduced a new cohort to the markets, a good thing, and the best regulation is life lessons. But let’s call this what it is, a gambling app.

Wired for Risk

Gambling apps are not successful because they help their customers establish economic security. Bet long enough and you always lose — the house has a built-in edge, in both sports and day trading, because it skims off every wager, one way or another. Gambling is entertainment, but it’s a particular type of entertainment, having more in common with alcohol and recreational drugs than Netflix or Nascar. Its draw is dopamine, the reward hormone. Pro tip: If your daughter is dating a guy who, before prison, was a drug dealer and is now a day trader … encourage him to get back into drugs. But I digress.

The dopamine response isn’t as simple as a chemical making us feel good. It’s more powerful than that. When we win a bet, or our stock goes up, our brain marks the occasion by releasing dopamine, and we feel a rush of pleasure. The dopamine release is triggered not by the winning, but by the anticipation of winning — the wager itself. Losing is essential to the experience, in fact, because the uncertainty of the outcome makes the wager more exciting, leading to greater dopamine releases. If we won every time, we’d still play, because we want the money, but we wouldn’t enjoy it so much. It would be that increasingly perverse thing you do for guaranteed reward … work. Gambling is our brain tricking us into thinking losing money is pleasurable. There’s an episode of The Twilight Zone (aka the best Black Mirror episodes) about a criminal who is shot, dies, and ends up in heaven. In heaven, he can’t lose a bet. And that’s the rub, he’s not in heaven … but hell.

That dopamine reward cycle is also the same biologically addictive pattern experienced with drugs — not metaphorically the same, but literally. It’s the same chemicals, the same receptors. Indeed, understanding gambling addiction has improved our understanding of drug addiction. An addict is not addicted to cocaine or day trading itself, but to the chemical processes they trigger in their brain. There’s a silver lining to this similarity — research into treatment can be leveraged across categories, and breakthroughs in drug design hold hope. I’ve written before about Ozempic and the other GLP-1 drugs; part of what’s so exciting about them is that they appear to reduce not just obesity but also the cravings of addiction.

Strong but Weak

Treatments hold promise, but addiction remains a scourge. Young men are especially susceptible to gambling addiction. Games of chance hold more initial appeal for them, because men are wired to be more risk-seeking than women and less averse to potential losses. (Note: There are upsides to this — men are more likely to take heroic risks in battle or start a company.) However, once they play, young men are less able to resist the addictive cycle, because their prefrontal cortex develops more slowly. Think of the prefrontal cortex as the adult in the room, someone with common sense who can see beyond the next dopamine hit. When boys reach adolescence, they experience greater muscle growth than girls do, but behind the eyes, girls are making more important gains: Their prefrontal cortexes mature sooner, giving them greater ability to overcome the reward circuits with rational thought. Every study I’ve read on adolescent development can best be summarized as: While boys are physically stronger, girls are emotionally and mentally stronger.

Sports betting and stock trading are tailor-made to exploit these systems, and they’re particularly attractive to young men, as they don’t present as games of pure chance but tests of skill. In a cover story on sports betting, Newsweek recently explained, “Many sports bettors tend to see their wagers as safer and more informed than other kinds of gambling, researchers say; they think they know the game, the players and the teams, and are being guided by their own expertise and skill rather than luck. This may give them an illusion of control over the outcome.” There’s a similar dynamic with day trading. And gambling addiction is worse than substance addiction in some ways. It’s easier to hide, so friends and family may not realize a person has a serious problem until they are deep in debt and emotionally damaged. Problem gambling is associated with greater suicide risk than substance addiction.

Making this addictive product more widely available has had the predictable result of increasing the number of addicts. It’s a difficult problem to track (see above: easy to hide), but at least 6 million to 8 million U.S. adults are estimated to have a mild to severe gambling problem, costing the economy $7 billion, and many experts believe those are undercounts. Whatever the number is, it is going to go up, fast. Calls to gambling addiction hotlines are doubling every year in states that have legalized sports betting. In Michigan calls doubled in the first two months of legal wagers.

While all gambling addictions may not end in bankruptcy, they can have dangerous long-term effects on the health of an individual. Pathological gamblers are more likely to develop stress-related conditions like hypertension, sleep deprivation, and cardiovascular disease. These people are likely to lose focus on their jobs and relationships, all while feeling an immense sense of guilt and shame.


Legalizing sports betting has unleashed problem gambling, but I don’t believe pushing it back into the shadows is the answer. We aren’t going to outlaw day trading, and the responses to the risks involve their own risks. Many addictive substances are illegal, and they still ruin lives. Plus, many more people enjoy gambling as entertainment than suffer from it. Finally, I believe people have the right to consume ice cream and alcohol, sequester from society, day trade, and kill themselves slowly. However, we also have the obligation to educate our youth about the risks. Virginia is leading the way here, with a new law requiring schools to cover gambling and its addictive potential. Education can change behavior: We’ve halved drunk driving deaths since the 1980s, in part thanks to safer cars and tighter enforcement, but also because we’ve increased the understanding of the risks. We can pay for these and other programs by taxing the gambling companies in a way that reflects the externalities they create.

There are also clear benefits from legalization. It starves organized crime of a valuable revenue stream: By one estimate, illegal gambling is down 60% since 2018. And it creates revenue for investing in addiction services: $3 billion in gambling taxes since 2018. Regulated gambling ads include prominent messages about “responsible gambling” and, more important, links and phone numbers for gambling hotlines. More people are accessing these resources, which is evidence of an increasing problem, but also proof that these mandated messages are routing people toward help.

But something more insidious is going on here. Specifically, tech, media, and an infirm Congress have granted permits rendering it open season on young people, and especially on young men. Our elected officials are in a crossover episode of The Golden Girls and The Walking Dead. And there’s a survivor’s bias — few of our legislators have engaged in self-harm due to Instagram, and none has taken their life as they felt useless. As a result, we have the best-funded pension plan and free health care for seniors but a disastrous lack of empathy, focus, and resources for issues facing our youth and in particular young men.


Minority rule by seniors is speedballed by a hard truth. Men, historically, are disposable. If a village of 50 men and 50 women were to lose 25 of the women to combat deaths or suicide, the village would not survive. If half the men died, the village would persevere. For all the progress we’ve made on women’s rights, and it was overdue, we haven’t come to grips with just how poorly young men are doing today. Last year, 96% of the 1,150 people shot by police were men. Men represent 93% of people who are incarcerated and 77% of those who kill themselves.

Now, scan your emotions after reading the last sentence. It would be understandable to reflexively think that these statistics are a function of men being more violent and antisocial. And that explains some of it. Some. We just don’t bring the same empathy to young men. Why? See above: disposable.

Life is so rich,


P.S. In my new book, The Algebra of Wealth, I talk about the importance of character and discipline. You can preorder it here.

P.P.S. Join Section for a free event on What I Wish I’d Known in the First 10 Years of My Career, featuring execs from Meta and Western Union.



  1. Guy Mask says:

    Hi Scott, when are you going to write about the financial side of major porn platforms, and the damaging effects of pornosocial messaging on young men?

  2. Guy Myles says:

    Great piece. There is an additional aspect of this that is important to note. Gambling companies make most of their money from these addicts who have serious personal issues from gambling. The companies are therefore directly profiting from misery. In the UK during lockdown I decided to distract myself with online betting but to make it more fun paid for a professional tips service to help. The service was great and I made money with the 8 or so bookies I used. Every single on of them closed my account after I made £200 to £1000 with the average at a few hundred. If I was losing money there would have been no limit placed on that. The industry is unpleasant. I don’t care about not making money from bets, it was just a bit of fun, but I was horrified to learn how the industry thinks about its customers. They are there to milk people that make losing bets.

  3. Stop Unethical Hypnotherapy says:

    Right now, I’m trying to figure out whether I’ve recently had a stroke or the unethical hypnotherapist’s head games got out of hand. It’s the most terrifying feeling I could have. I’m trying to figure out which things are things that could be chalked up to unethical hypnotherapy, and which things could only mean I’ve just had a stroke. I’m also wondering if the fear combined with the unethical hypnotherapist’s head games could give me a lot of symptoms without anything being wrong. I generally have headaches anyway under hypnotherapy, for example.

    Scott, I don’t know whether you actually heard from the unethical hypnotherapist I’ve been trying to stop. That’s not necessarily a knock on you, but it comes from a knowledge that any time I’ve complained, it has gone behind me to cut off the complaints.

    Whether I’ve had a stroke or the hypnotherapist is just playing with my fear, I hope that everyone understands that hypnotherapy without my knowledge or consent should never have happened, and that the unethical hypnotherapist should have been stopped long ago.

    Even if everything’s okay, I hope people will avoid hypnotherapists, since they don’t really allow any means of enforcing their ethics code and can throw up a lot of roadblocks if they’re actually in your brain.

    • Stop Ucch Now says:

      I’ll let you know that I contacted Dr. David Godot, who heads up a hypnotherapy professional thingy called Division 30. I have a feeling he could stop an unethical hypnotherapy pronto if he wants to, but he’s been generally a smart-ass. I wouldn’t see him as a psychologist. From what I gleaned of his response, his bedside manner is rubbish. You could also call the Cranberry Psychology Center in Cranberry PA, since they’re the psychologists I saw before the hypnotherapist snuck in, and tell them to stop it. I wouldn’t recommend any of them as psychologists, either. Whether I’ve just had a stroke or not, the extra worry I’m facing because of them is horrible.

  4. Alone says:

    I know it’s off topic, but Robin Simcox, the head of Britain’s anti-extremism organization, has officially come out against the demonizing of incels. He’s got a little too much emphasis on the patheticness, given the contempt that men who are alone face from even Hollywood actors (I refer you to the truly pathetic pair of Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson whining about THE MARVELS’ low box office). Once Nick Fury has called you a loser, you’d hope the government would be a little better about it.

    Perhaps Joe Biden could come out against the media types and others who want to demonize any man who hasn’t had sex for at least six months. I’d suggest he lay off the emphasis on men who are alone as pathetic, though.

    Where there are violent situations, it looks to a rational observer like the media’s message of scorched Earth and demonization plays a big role.

    It has been sad watching the pathetic creatures who are good-looking, oversexed, and relatively privileged, yet still somehow full of hate take over nerddom.

    I hope anyone who is alone will unplug, because the media’s message of contempt toward any men who are alone is a depressing thing no one should see just about every time they check the headlines or go to a movie.

    • Alone says:

      For the record on the topic, I’ve bought tickets for huge Powerball jackpots and dreamed for a while about winning, but I avoid online gambling. The 24/7 aspect of it is the part that really turns me off.

  5. m mandich says:

    According to several online health websites, ADHD is a major contributing factor to development of addictive behaviors: addiction to the Internet, followed by gambling, porn. We are killing our society with short term, “meme” thinking, ease of access to drugs, or drug-like habits. Everything mentioned in this article is topical. But I do take issue with “survivor’s bias” by seniors; I am a senior who is more politically involved now–and more concerned than ever–that our youth are increasingly ill prepared to enter society, adulthood. And so are many of the seniors I’ve encountered. As a demographic, we are blamed for creating unequal wealth distribution, hoarding health care etc. Living in this country has never been cheap or easy, but Big Tech has brainwashed everyone into believing that making money, looking perfect, or finding your perfect mate, is as simple as swiping left.

  6. michael says:

    The gambling issues smell as bad as the weed stench coming from every block in NYC’s new convenience stores.

    • William Bell says:

      Love your work, you point out some of these dangers that gambling creates, the UK is a far more advanced example of the dangers which online gambling (not just sports gambling) can wreak across society. Family breakdown, suicide, shame, knock-on societal issues, it all stems from the gambling curse.

  7. Frances🇨🇦🇲🇶 says:

    “A crossover between Golden Girls and The Walking Dead”…. Well put! American entrepreneurship is one of its best assets as a nation. If only it had a moral code!!! Everything and everyone is fair game if you can make money off of it!

  8. Ed says:

    I liken the legalization of gambling to the legalization of pot. The government can’t stand having potential tax dollars slip through their greedy hands. They could care less about the devastation of young men if it means being able to fund their latest pork policy.

  9. bartb says:

    There are so many great takeaways from this article that I’ve lost count.
    Great job!
    This is a keeper!

  10. Carson Moore says:

    You cannot compare sports betting (casino’s) with brokerage firms because their products are different therefore creating different incentive structures. A casinos product is gambling. A casino takes the opposite side of the bet than the customer. In order for the casino to profit the customer must loose money and vice-versa.
    However for a brokerage firm their product isn’t stocks and/or financial derivatives. Their product is information & access. Information & access to markets. When a ‘trader’ places a trade through a broker such as Robinhood – Robinhood is not taking the ‘other side’ of the ‘bet’. In this case Robinhood makes money through commissions on trades meaning a broker does not benefit when a customer looses money. They benefit if they keep trading. To be fair, if anything, a broker benefits when a client makes money as the client can continue to trade.

    I draw this distinction to not undermine the reckless abandon speculators will through away their money through what is degenerate gambling. The distinction is important because as this narrative leads to regulatory questions we must remind ourselves one of the core tenants of Liberalism – free markets. According to classical economics the three characteristics of inefficient markets are (1) Information asymmetry, (2) incomplete property rights, and (3) arbitrary barriers to entry. We must keep this is mind.

  11. Blamey, William says:

    Firstly I take issue with the notion that women are more risk adverse than men. Women have less disposable income and less time to gamble on average. Wealthier people gamble more.

    Secondly young women who engage in risky behaviour don’t need to commit suicide. They are killed by their unwise choices. The solution is to stop selling guns to young men.

    Thirdly risk management needs to be taught. Almost all decisions in life are playing the odds. Understanding expectations is a key part of life. The most successful of my cohort is a billionaire from applying statistics learnt in PhD physics to sports betting.

    As a last point, gambling is not unproductive, people enjoy it as much as watching a movie. Making movies is a gamble available only to the rich.

    • Christianne Weaver says:

      While I agree that we do need to address the mental health of young men and educate them, I find the comment regarding women’s rights as “was overdue”, used in the past tense glosses over problems still present. Wages, board seats, safety in our military, promotions, just to name a few. Let’s just start with equal pay, and all families will rise, along with the opportunity to get an education that all Americans deserve.

  12. Walt Sfo says:

    One of your best! The non-productive gambling industry and the perils of young men in America’s currently too mean society are two topics each worthy of attention and repair, but you link them well.
    The tech industry is so few people (white men), so over-rewarded financially, so narrow, and so persuaded by their self-generated myth, that they require exceptional scrutiny and social curb rules, yet still get almost none. No one should live in a society where six socially blind companies mediate 90% of all information.

  13. RedDot says:

    Thnx for the great read as always. I always read these from my Samsung Foldable. Ever since a few articles, the rendering on the foldable display is awful. It gets displayed in the center with lots of white space on both sides, like very narrow single column view. Please look into it and help fix it! Thnx

  14. Jim Cockrell says:

    An interesting. side effect or effects of digital gaming has been the Premier League in the UK. The league and some clubs are actually sponsored by online betting companies, but players are being suspended and fined for betting. Hypocrisy?
    Also ,as betting is legal in the UK, it used to be that to bet you would wander down to the bookies with a fist full of reddies and place a bet. Now, as the players are making so much more, they have huge credit lines which they leverage online and more that one Premier League player had gone bankrupt over gambling despite making millions over his career.

    Paul Merson, Arsenal and England international had the trifecta of addictions, booze. drugs and gambling but said that gambling was by far the worst. So not much fun there then

  15. Sandy Laube says:

    I think the word you want is not disposable so much as useful for short term tasks only. And only certain young men fit into that category. Young men who are good candidates for stable employment, fatherhood, homeownership, etc… are not disposable by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. Our ability as society to grow more of those is a thing that doesn’t get discussed very often.

    But the violently inclined who can follow orders get herded into combat roles where they can exercise natural tendencies. Those that can’t follow orders end up in the streets and as statistics where they strike fear into nearly everyone who crosses their path.

    I think you might be asking the wrong question, it’s not why are we getting it wrong so often but where are we getting it right and how can we replicate that more frequently?

  16. JOHN CALLAHAN says:

    This is one of the most powerful ‘white paper’ you have ever published . One must recognize the horrid down size risk to family ans society.

  17. Joe Schlafly says:

    Scott, thanks for your piece. Much of this problem can trace its roots to state sponsored gambling in the form of lotteries. Sold as a way to help education, these state lotteries prey on the young men and those who can least afford to lose. here in Missouri, I have seen billboards beckoning to citizens with:”Tired of your mortgage? Play Missouri lotto!” How is that for responsible State action? As you suggest, education of young people is the key.

  18. Connor says:

    Then why have fanduel ads on your pivot podcast?

    • Jeff says:

      I noticed this too over the last few episodes – it seems like Scott/Kara or the team at Pivot noticed and replaced the ads with more benign ones. However the hypocrisy of it is impressive. In one breath Scott enumerates the dangers of gambling and it’s harmful impact on young people (rightfully so, the above piece is great), but in the next breath he is profiting off of having FanDuel ads as the lead in to one of his pods? Hoping this is addressed.

      • Connor says:

        100% agree Jeff, fanduel ad was on this Tuesday’s pivot episode…
        I do sports bet as an economics and statistics major used as a small learning tool. It has helped me find an inefficient markets to take advantage of can be fun to find positive expected value. One rule I think that has helped me is to never bet on a team that I want to win takes emotion out of it.

    • michael says:

      “Follow the money.”

  19. Tim says:

    There is quite a lot of hypocrisy in the gambling industry, too. I used to play a lot of online poker, and then in 2011 the DOJ banned it. Saying they were “protecting us”. So ironic they’d ban online poker, one of the only gambling games where you can make money long term if you are good enough, and do nothing to shut down lotteries, video poker in bars, etc. Where you have zero chance of winning long term. The answer, of course, is money. They’ll never shut down lotteries because they a financial boon for the states. They shut down online poker because the sites were offshore and they weren’t getting a cut. Complete hypocrisy.

  20. Gina S says:

    I agree 100%. I despise all the betting commercials. All the celebrities in these commercials should be ashamed of themselves. Gambling is an addiction. Making it easy to gamble from your phone only adds fuel to the fire. Every time I go to one of these local gambling halls in NYC, all I see are sad, pathetic people bettin ghtier last dollar to line the pockets of the owners.

  21. James Wood says:

    Would be interested to know your thoughts on emerging tech/sports platforms, such as Sorare, that blend ownership of digital assets with sports fantasy. It doesn’t technically class as gambling, but there’s still significant risk.

  22. Sidney Smith says:

    Another fantastic. Read Professor Galloway. Always informative and right on point. Keep up the great work.

  23. Kathy Marshall says:

    This is tragic, we are blowing our future. And where will young women find mates?
    We need Scott’s platform to inspire young people to run for Congress –

    • A Question says:

      Isn’t running for Congress the ultimate gamble?

      It’s also something that might not help young men overall. CNBC said recently that men’s attractiveness plays more of a role in their success over the past couple of decades than it has for women. If that’s true in regular job situations, it must be more so in politics, which relies on public appearances and campaign ads. A few good-looking people getting into Congress wouldn’t help the men who are having more setbacks. Frankly, neither party has much interest in the men left behind anymore. The guys who get in at the workplace don’t exactly look out for their less-attractive potential rivals, and that’s true of politics as well.

  24. Jed Diamond says:

    Thank you for writing about this. I’ve worked in addiction medicine and men’s health for more than fifty years. I am seeing more and more men (mostly young) who are becoming increasingly caught up in the addictive fervor of the new gambling opportunities.

  25. Sharon McCarthy says:

    Thanks for this PSA. It’s a big problem we don’t talk about. And it’s going to get bigger.

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