Photo by Laurent Karila

As the 2022 Football World Cup approaches, Santé Publique France warns of sports betting that can become real addictions! “Out of 100 sports bettors, fifteen risk falling into a problematic practice” warns psychiatrist Laurent Karila.

Football, basketball, tennis, boxing… sport bets have been greatly developed and popularized in France in recent years, particularly with a young audience, particularly vulnerable. Approaching the FIFA World Cup 2022, Public health France (“Betting is not nothing”) and the National Gaming Authority (ANJ) (“You’ve seen, you’ve lost”) launch prevention campaigns whose objective is to reduce the number of bettors for problematic use. “Out of 100 sports bettors, fifteen risk tipping in problematic practice” warn the Prof. Laurent Karilaa psychiatrist specializing in addiction.

The term sports betting is defined by the ANJ as the act of bet a sum of money on a score element or on a game phase of a sports meeting, the aim of which is to win money if this element of score or phase of play occurs. Addiction to sports betting corresponds to a situation in which a person cannot help but bet sums of money, which may be important, in order to satisfy a irrepressible need, and whose consequences are dangerous for health both physically and psychologically. Gambling addiction is recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization (WHO).

A person is said to be addicted to gambling when the excessive, recurring behavior has persisted for at least a year and they meet at least four of the following criteria:

► The player needs gamble increasing amounts of money to reach the desired state of excitement.

► He is irritable or restless when he cannot play or is stopped in his activity.

► The game defines his behavior and his daily life (sleep, mood, work).

► He already tried but Failed to control himself, cut down or stop gambling.

► Obsessively preoccupied, he keeps reliving past gaming experiences, plan a game episode; he thinks about the different ways he could make money and who he could play with.

► He uses the game as a tranquilizer or antidepressant to fight against despair, sadness, anxiety, guilt, for example.

► After losing money, he returns to play to recover.

He lies to conceal his gambling activity.

► He bets are beyond his means, even if it means borrowing from those around you

What test to do to know if you are addicted to sports betting?

Laurent Karila, psychiatrist specialized in addiction. © LAURENT BENHAMOU/SIPA (published on 16/11/2022)

The psychiatrist Laurent Karila offers a test to diagnose gambling addiction. Answer the questionnaire below by answering “yes” or “no”. The two items of this test correspond to two criteria: the need to play with increasing amounts of money and lying:

  • 1. Have you ever had to lie to close people about your gambling behavior?
  • 2. Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money?

If the subject answers positively to one of these questions, the situation will have to be evaluated by a specialist.

What is the profile of the player addicted to sports betting?

Young men in social difficulty are most at risk of becoming addicted to sports betting. “72% of punters have between 18 to 35 years old (nearly 50% between 18 and 25 years old). These players often come from modest backgrounds and are more frequently unemployed“says Professor Karila.

What are the dangers of sports betting?

“Sports betting causes a social isolation, worries in the professional sphere, sleep disorders, financial consequences with indebtedness, even over-indebtedness. They can lead to suicide in the most serious cases says Emmanuel Lahaie, addiction prevention officer at Public Health France. “We observe collateral consequences which are clear on the entourage, the family, the spouses, the friends“says Professor Laurent Karila. “The risk of excessive gambling is 5 to 6 times more frequent among pathological gamblers. About 15% of sports bettors are at risk of problem gambling“adds the psychiatrist. There is also a link between pathological gambling and mental disorders described in several studies taken up by Santé Publique France. “According to these studies, anxiety disorders would be nearly 4 times more frequent among pathological gamblers. Likewise, the risk of mood disorder would be multiplied by 4.4 and that manic episode by 8.8 among these. Smoking, use or abuse of alcohol, drug dependence are more common among pathological gamblers” can we read on the site of the health organization.

Wanting to get over is a characteristic seesaw mechanism in problem gambling.

Sports betting presents a specific danger to this money game called “illusion of expertise” : Sports bettors tend to view betting less as a game of chance than of skill.Sports betting regulars attribute the loss or gain of money to expertise. Therefore, if the player believes he has knowledge of football, for example, he will also have the impression of being able to predict the results of matches. But it’s proven wrong“recalls Emmanuel Lahaie. “No match outcome can be 100% predicted. In the long term, experienced or not experienced, the gains are identical” confirms the psychiatrist. Moreover, associating the gain or loss of money with a certain expertise contributes to granting social recognition, prestige to the player who wins and a social devaluation to whoever loses.

“Sports betting can, among the most vulnerable, go from fun gambling to excessive gambling and then to addiction, so a chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer” warns Professor Laurent karila. “But not everyone becomes addicted” emphasizes the psychiatrist. “In games of chance and money, there are 4 main phases : gain, loss, hope for recovery, despair with a risk of depression and suicide in some. Wanting to recover is a characteristic mechanism of the tipping point in problem gambling, addiction to gambling“develops the addiction doctor.”The risk lies in the thought that we will “recover” in other words after losing money we bet again in the hope of repaying what we lost. It’s a vicious circle” confirms Emmanuel Lahaie. Marketing, through promotional offers that highlight the possibility of “recovering” or earning more after losing, contributes to this shift into dependence. “Sports sites have increasingly targeted communication techniques. They attract by offering money for the first time to bet for free and solicit players by sending them messages or notifications directly to their mobile phone with messages such as “you have not played for 3 days“” explains Emmanuel Lahaie. “There are different elements to take into account such as the normalization of sports betting in society, maintained by the marketing strategies of the operators, ease of access accelerated by the Internet and smartphones (you can play anywhere anytime), the practice of operators (bonus offers, live betting etc). Each sporting event is subject to increased advertising pressure. There is a clear link between the frequency of exposure to advertising and the incentive to bet and bet more money than expected” supports the psychiatrist.

To get out of an addiction, you have to consult a health professional (general practitioner, psychiatrist, psychologist, addictologist). It is possible to go to the structures specialized in addictology (ambulatory centers and hospital centres) which offer psychological, social, educational and medical care. Different types of approach are possible: individual (educational, social, pharmacological, psychotherapeutic), discussion group, SOS Joueurs, expert patients, couple or even family care.

There is the possibility voluntary gambling ban and self-exclusion measures on authorized gaming websites. They apply throughout France for a non-reducible period of three years. Beyond that, the person remains banned unless they take steps to lift this ban. In the event of significant financial problems, there are measures for the protection of property (judicial protection, curatorship, guardianship), personalized social support (contract concluded with the social services of your department of residence) and judicial (more restrictive measure pronounced by the guardianship judge). To help a loved one who is addicted to sports betting, it may be useful to refer him to dedicated support structures and talk groups. This allows the player to chat with other people in the same situation as him. Players Info Service also offers a set of educational videos on his Youtube channel to warn about the dangers of sports betting.

What is the sports betting addict helpline number?

If you have any questions about addiction to sports betting, contact the Players Info Service portal at The call is anonymous and not surcharged. The line is open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Thanks to Emmanuel Lahaie, addiction prevention officer at Public Health France and to Professor Laurent Karila, psychiatrist at the Paul-Brousse AP-HP University Paris Saclay hospital and author of the book “On n’a qu’une vie!” published by Fayard.


-Danger of sports betting, Ministry of Sports and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, July 27, 2022

– Risks associated with sports betting: for the first time Public Health France launches a prevention campaign, Public Health France, October 18, 2022

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