Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

Palo Alto High School's sports news magazine

Viking Magazine

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Playing the System

Propositions to pass sports gambling failed in late 2022. How has sports betting in california progressed since then?
Playing+the+System

After a Paly sophomore (who wishes to remain anonymous) saw many of their schoolmates on the sports-betting app Fliff, they decided to download it and give it a try.

After getting some of the app’s online currency, they placed some bets, and earned some more online currency. Feeling like they were on a roll, they bought more online currency using real-life American dollars. The bets continued, getting riskier and riskier, until eventually they crashed, losing the currency they had bought and then some more.

“After I lost all of the Fliff cash that I bought I realized that I went too far, so I stopped for a while,” the anonymous sophomore said. “Even though I stopped [sports betting], I still see a big population here at Paly that make sports bets, and I see videos on social media all the time with jokes about betting.”

In 2018, the Supreme Court overthrew a federal ban on sports betting, allowing the state governments to set up their policies however they choose. Although there is no longer a ban on these sports betting apps in the U.S, there haven’t been any regulations legalizing the activities as well.

In November of 2022, Propositions 26 and 27 were placed on Californian’s ballots, both advocating for a different form of legalization of sports gambling. Both failed, meaning that sports betting of any form is still illegal in California. California is one of just 12 states to have all forms of sports betting illegal.

Sports betting is an incredibly profitable enterprise, as much of gambling is. When propositions 26 and 27 were on the table, organizations stood to benefit billions. According to the California Secretary of State, a combined total of $295.5 million was raised in support of Propositions 26 and 27. The main contributors? Companies, casinos, and online sports betting apps such as FanDuel.

Overall, $132.3 million was raised in support of Proposition 26, while only $43.8 million was raised in opposition. For Proposition 27, $169.1 million was raised in support, with $249.4 million in opposition. Had the propositions passed, they would have brought in large amounts of money in taxes for the state.

Proposition 26 sought to legalize in-person sports gambling in a variety of locations. Proposition 27 took it even a step further, attempting to legalize sports betting from mobile devices, essentially people over the age of 21 would be able to place bets with real money anywhere, anytime.

At the end of the day, both propositions failed, so technically, gambling on any sport except horse racing is still illegal in the state of California.

However, despite this fact, thousands of Californians still participate in sports gambling. How has sports betting become so popular statewide and even at Paly? What has changed since the proposition failed in late 2022? The answer lies mainly in what some would consider a loophole that makes sports betting both legal and mobile.

As using real-world currency (like US dollars) is illegal, many popular sports betting apps utilize what are called social currencies under a sweepstakes gaming platform. A popular example of this concept would be utilizing the app Fliff. There are no restrictions on who can download the app because it doesn’t utilize actually acceptable cash. It has two different types, Fliff coins, and Fliff cash. These currencies can be used exclusively for the Fliff app.

A junior with experience on Fliff who wishes to remain anonymous confirms that loopholes regarding sports betting in California stay alive and well.

“[Sports betting apps] in California will continue to be available since they have found loopholes in California’s laws against sports betting,” the anonymous source said. “You are able to win real money but you have to have a valid ID that is 21 years or older to cash out.”

Because neither are real currencies, anybody can download the app and play it recreationally. The catch comes with exchanging currencies for effective, spendable money. To withdraw fliff cash, people have to register with a real ID as over 21, and the only states that prohibit this form of sweepstakes style are Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, Washington, and Tennessee, meaning it’s fair game here in California.

“I can also play with my friends and compare parlays with each other. There is a fun aspect to potentially winning and having your parlays hit, especially when they have multiple legs”

— Madeline Kuo (25')

Essentially, people exchange their Fliff cash for gift cards that can be used at businesses ranging from Taco Bell to Uber.

Such online applications make it exceptionally easy to start sports betting and consistently keep sports betting. In 2022, Viking magazine spoke with recovering sports gambling addict Steven Delaney, who has a podcast called “Fantasy or Reality? The GPP (Gambling Problem Podcast).” Delaney notes that online gambling significantly increases accessibility and the likelihood of addiction.

“To go to an in-person casino, you need the time and actual cash to play,” said Delaney. “With online betting, you can use credit cards and can play from anywhere. I’ve heard many people talk about betting while in the bathroom, … in the car, even on the couch next to their spouse, and no one knew they were gambling away their life savings or going deep into debt. It’s much easier and quicker to do more damage with the accessibility of betting online.”

Bets can be placed often and fast using the Fliff app; these apps want to remove all possible speed bumps that could cause a gambler to reconsider placing a bet. After downloading the Fliff app, it took a member of Viking a grand total of 3.3 seconds to open the Fliff app and place a random bet.

A key element of recovery from any sort of addiction is placing as much friction as possible between you and a potential relapse: alcoholics avoid situations with alcohol, binge eaters keep binge food out of the house, and drug users cut off friends who use drugs. For gambling, it is the same way, and it can be seen how insidious these apps are, since their accessibility on one’s cell phone and ease of placing bets may make it more challenging for gambling addicts to recover.

In addition to Fliff, there are a number of other betting apps available to use with their separate currency. These vary from Sleeper, the #1 fantasy football app with a section for sportsbooks, to DraftKings, a sports betting-focused app. All these different apps seem to be slightly different but still have the shared trait of having a sportsbook section where bets can be placed.

“I started betting on Fliff about a year ago,” an anonymous junior said. “My lifetime earnings so far are 600 dollars, and I like to believe that I haven’t wasted much of it more into betting.”

Although some Paly students attest that they are smart with their money, others have made mistakes costing them real-life money due to the addictive properties, as is displayed with the  anonymous sophomore source who was mentioned at the beginning.

English teacher Lindsay Cohen has never gambled but has her opinions in regard to whether or not gambling should be allowed.

“I think that any sort of gambling needs to be well regulated,” Cohen said. “[Students] shouldn’t be able to gamble under 18.”

The most popular and simplest form of sports gambling is a money line. It is a type of bet where gamblers put money on which team or player they think will win a game. For example, betting on the 49er’s money line is betting on them to win and you’d be able to cash out if the team won.

Another common form of sports betting is point spread, where you bet on a team’s margin of victory rather than just winning or losing. A positive and negative symbol represents the spread and the team favored to win gets the minus number like (-3) winning the bet.

The last common form of betting is over-under total bets. In these wagers, you are betting on the combined points scored between both teams. For example, if the final score of a game is 21-14, the total is 35, and if you bet on that spread you’d win.

The most common form of gambling with Paly students is betting with fake money because it’s the only legal version in California. These fake sports betting apps are similar to using real money and you can do the same different forms of gambling. The odds are calculated from all the bets placed.

“Sports betting on apps like Fliff is really easy because you have lots of options in terms of sports and different props to bet on”

— Anonymous (25')

The purpose of these apps is to simulate and practice the actual experience of gambling. Using social currency, you can place bets normally without the risk of losing effective cash but still have the enthralling feeling of gambling. This method is completely legal for minors in California if you don’t cash out.

“There should be a crackdown on sports gambling apps that allow students to gamble legally,” Cohen said.

However, sports gambling can be illegal in another aspect: if you bet on a sport you’re associated with. The Football Association, the governing body over all aspects of soccer at the amateur to the professional level within its jurisdiction (England and the islands Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man), has introduced a ban on betting when involved in the Premier League, English Premier, National League, the FA Women’s Super League, and The FA Women’s Championship levels. This ban is to avoid scenarios that may involve the issues that arise from the sports betting version of insider trading.

Athletes included in the leagues above are prohibited from any form of betting on football locally or worldwide. In fact, Sandro Tonali, a midfielder for Newcastle, did some betting on AC Milan matches after hanging out with members of the team. As a result, he received a ten-month ban from soccer.

Sandro Tonali isn’t the one person who has been caught insider betting. In the NFL, MLB, and even the MLB, players have been caught wagering on games while active.

In the MLB, one of the most famous scandals occurred. Pete Rose, the MLB’s all-time leader in hits with three World Series, one Most Valuable Player, and two Golden Gloves, is the definition of a Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, after retiring he became a manager for the Cincinnati Reds and just three years later he was claimed to be gambling on his team and ended up being pxermanently banned from the Hall of Fame. After all his years in the MLB and his countless awards, Pete Rose will never become a Hall of Famer due to this. This decision to this day is controversial and shows how sports betting can turn your life upside down.

By participating in legal gambling without the high stakes, many Paly students have found fun in playing the odds despite its addictive properties. Junior Madeleine Kuo, who participates in legal online gambling with social currencies, notices the most desirable bets are those with a higher potential of hitting a jackpot.

“The most fun part of sports gambling is the multiple leg parlays because different things have to hit for your bet to cash in,” Kuo said. “The possibility of winning big is the most fun part.”

Since there are multiple conditions, the chance of winning goes down, but the rewards go up, drawing many to this type of bet.

“It’s also great because you can keep betting every day since they give you a free sum of money each day,” Kuo Said.

This aspect of the “free gifts” is a tactic often employed by gambling apps to keep people coming back for more. In Kuo’s case, she isn’t risking real money, but for addicts, this tactic can be debilitating. A gift like this is called a “loss leader,” designed to entice more play.

There is also a social aspect to such apps, as they are popularly shared between friends and online. A sports betting culture has grown attached to sports fans, especially online on social media.

“A part of how I knew about sports betting was from online, for a while I would get videos recommended to me with people talking about Fliff and different videos on it, [and] most of them were just jokes,” Kuo said.

Sports betting is just a part of the internet now and is something that has a massive scope from kids to older people. It is like another form of social media that can connect people.

“I can also play with my friends and compare parlays with each other,” Kuo said. “There is a fun aspect to potentially winning and having your parlays hit, especially when they have multiple legs [conditions to fulfill].”

A spirit of friendly competition is fostered between students who bet along with friends. Without the risk of real money on the line, this can be a source of fun. However, it is important to recognize that exposure to these apps at a young age increases the risk of gambling issues when older. According to mass.gov (the official website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts), “Research shows that children introduced to “harmless betting” by age 12 are four times more likely to engage in problem gambling later.”

As with any potentially addictive substance or activity, the younger someone is introduced to it, the higher the likelihood of addiction at a later age. With sports gambling gaining traction around the world, more and more students have started gambling, however many don’t know the hidden dangers. Gambling, although it seems fun and harmless, after a while can cause low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and even depression, as well as debilitating financial issues.

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About the Contributors
Roan Haney
Roan Haney, Staff Writer
Hi, I'm Roan, a junior and this is my first year on the Viking Magazine. I've been a water polo player and swimmer for Paly since freshman year, and I've been swimming since I was a little kid. I like all sports, but some of my favorites to watch are basketball, soccer, and football.
Nathan Lee, Staff Writer
Ethan Wang, Staff Writer

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