Paul Tonko, a Democrat representing a congressional district that includes Albany and Schenectady in New York state, is nearly alone in his crusade to stem what he calls the “out of control” proliferation of sports betting advertisements.

He has one co-sponsor of his Betting on our Future Act — fellow Democrat John Sarbanes, who represents a district near Baltimore.

This is a shame, because more of the nation’s representatives should be concerned about a rise in sports gambling advertising that Tonko and others say is predatory and that is harming the nation’s rising generation.

But movements often begin small. Some recent probing reporting by The Wall Street Journal has laid bare other problems with the gambling industry, including a recent story that suggested online gambling companies may be using artificial intelligence to target people who potentially could be problem gamblers, using perks that would entice them to spend, and consequently lose, even more.

This reporting, and Tonko’s bill, are good starting points for what ought to be a deep probe and discussion about how to regulate an industry that, as even casual observers of televised sporting events can see, is dominating commercial breaks with promises of easy money.

A recent story in the Guardian noted how DraftKings had hired celebrities to help promote something it calls a “free bet” for gamblers. “Only the small print (displayed in the last seven seconds) explained it was impossible to withdraw winnings from such a ‘non-cashable’ wager,” the newspaper said.

Tonko’s bill seeks to put an end to all that. Among other things, it would ban online sports betting companies from advertising during live sporting events. Those companies could no longer accept credit cards, a form of payment that often tempts gambler into spending more than they can afford.

It also would prevent those companies from using AI to track the habits of gamblers.

The Wall Street Journal said sports betting companies need a cadre of high spenders to provide revenue. “Companies deploy so-called VIP hosts who form personal relationships with the biggest spenders, frequently handing out betting credits to encourage gamblers to deposit more of their money,” it said in a published story last week.

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Using artificial intelligence, the companies can collect data on what types of wagers frequent gamblers make, and how much money they bet, among other things. This could allow them to identify addicted, or problem, gamblers and to direct further incentive their way.

The paper said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, has sent letters to eight separate gambling concerns, asking them to cease such tactics. He asked specific questions about what type of data they collect and how the information is used, and he asked them to agree to end the VIP hosting programs that seem designed to entice problem gamblers to spend more.

He has suggested possibly legislating prohibitions or restrictions on such practices. This, too, is worth consideration. It certainly needs to be discussed.

Tonko said his bill is designed to take a similar approach toward sports betting that Congress has taken toward cigarette smoking for the last half century or so. A fact sheet on his website said about 7 million Americans have either a gambling problem or addiction, and that young adults are the industry’s biggest growth demographic. It quotes the International Center for Youth Gambling Problems & High-Risk Behaviors, at McGill University, saying between 60% and 80% of high school students admit to having gambled for money at some point in their young lives.

WalletHub has reported that, “(Addicted) U.S. consumers experience over $100 billion per year in total gambling losses. Individually, a male gambling addict accumulates an average debt of between $55,000 and $90,000 whereas a female averages $15,000.” Jobs are lost, relationships are ended, crimes are committed and suicides have resulted from such addictions.

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The most fallacious counter-argument to arguments against gambling is that it hurts only the person gambling. The second most fallacious counter-argument is that governments should allow gambling as a form of individual freedom. Given the social toll, gambling approaches tobacco and alcohol use in its harms, and those behaviors face considerable regulation.

The American Gaming Association counters by saying its members are talking about how to use AI to fight problem gambling. An official told the Guardian that legalized sports betting eliminated the unethical practices of off-shore companies that used to dominate the market.

But those companies were not allowed to advertise. Today’s sports betting companies have proliferated online gambling to levels not previously seen.

Utahns should be proud their state is one of only two (Hawaii is the other) that prohibits all forms of gambling. That said, they ought to urge more politicians to begin talking in earnest about the scourge that is sweeping the nation.