In recent years, the issue of gambling harm has become a growing concern for professional athletes, particularly in the world of American sports, with the legalization of sports wagering across the USA Major League Soccer (MLS). With the rise of online gambling and the ease of access to betting platforms, many players are at risk of developing gambling addictions and suffering financial, emotional, and even legal consequences. In response, EPIC Global Solutions (EGS) has taken the initiative to educate the members of the Major League Soccer Players Association (MLSPA) on the risks of gambling harm. This case study will delve into the details of EGS’s efforts and their impact on the MLS players.
The MLSPA is the players’ union representing all MLS soccer players. It works to protect and promote the rights and interests of its members, both on and off the field. As part of its commitment to the well-being of its members, the MLSPA reached out to EPIC Global Solutions, a leading organization in safer gambling solutions, to provide education and awareness on the risks of gambling harm for its members. EPIC has a strong reputation for its evidence-based and effective sports strategies, especially soccer, working with the EFL, Chelsea, Royal Antwerp and Glasgow Rangers, making it the perfect partner for the MLSPA.
The main objective of this collaboration between the MLSPA and EGS was to educate MLS players on the harmful effects of gambling and provide them with the necessary understanding to make responsible decisions. The specific goals were to increase the players’ knowledge and experience of gambling harm, encourage them to seek help if they develop a gambling problem, and ultimately reduce the incidence of gambling-related issues within the league.
EPIC conducted a series of workshops and seminars for the MLSPA members, both in-person and online. These workshops were designed to be interactive and engaging, with a mix of educational presentations (led by EPIC’s lived experience facilitators who have experienced gambling harm in their sporting careers), group discussions, and case studies detailing the facilitator’s relationship with gambling, providing information on integrity-related issues and offering advice on how to avoid best the risks that can be associated with sports wagering.
The workshops covered a range of topics, including the signs and symptoms of problem gambling, the impact of gambling on mental health, the sporting integrity consequences of gambling in a sports career and explaining why athletes are more prone to suffer from gambling harm than the general population. EPIC used real-life examples and statistics to illustrate the severity of gambling harm and its effects on individuals and their families. The sessions also emphasised the importance of seeking help and provided information and signposting on support services available for those struggling with gambling addiction.
The education and awareness efforts of EPIC had a significant impact on the MLSPA members. The workshops received positive feedback from the players, with many expressing their gratitude for the valuable information provided by a facilitator to which they could relate to. The sessions also sparked meaningful discussions among the players and staff.
As a result of the workshops, many players reported a change in their attitudes towards gambling. They were more aware of the risks and consequences and better understood the importance of responsible gambling. Some players even reached out to EGS for further support and guidance.
“I thought the presentation was fantastic.Johnny Andris, MLSPA deputy general counsel.
(The Facilitator’s) telling of his experience as a high-level footballer dealing with addiction was very impactful.
The couple of players we spoke with afterwards gave us positive feedback. One of them specifically mentioned that the facilitator’s background made the content relatable.”
“The content balances well between storytelling, research, and essential information for MLS players to know and understand regarding their environment and rules.Dan Jones, MLSPA COO
Most importantly, the players seemed interested and engaged.”
“EPIC’s ability to present relevant and relatable information about gambling harm was fully displayed in the lived experience session at the Fire.Chicago Fire’s head of player care and well-being, Rachael Jankowsky
The team was fully engaged while hearing the personal story of an athlete who understands their world, and he held their attention while learning about a topic that can be difficult to tackle.
While a personal narrative carries the session, I also appreciate that EPIC’s methods are research-based and comprehensive, which instils a confidence that we’re putting the right information in front of our team.”
Through its collaboration with the MLSPA, EPIC Global Solutions successfully continues to educate MLS players on the risks of gambling harm. The workshops and seminars provided valuable knowledge and resources to the players, empowering them to make informed and responsible decisions when it comes to gambling. This partnership between the MLSPA and EPIC Global Solutions serves as a model for other professional sports player unions and associations to address the issue of gambling harm and promote the well-being of their players.