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Substance Abuse and Addiction Health Center

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Underage, Drunken Fans Buy Stadium Alcohol

Study Shows Underage or Intoxicated Fans Are Able to Purchase Alcohol at Sports Stadiums
By Caroline Wilbert
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 20, 2008 -- Underage or drunken fans are often able to buy alcohol at sports stadiums, especially if it's purchased from a vendor in the stands, according to a study.

The study, by University of Minnesota researchers, shows that underage fans are able to purchase a drink 18% of the time and intoxicated fans are able to purchase a drink 74% of the time at pro sports stadiums. Both groups are 2.9 times more likely to succeed in their purchase attempts if they buy from someone in the stands as opposed to going to a concession booth.

The study is published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The researchers used actors who appeared intoxicated, doing things like dropping money and slurring words. They also used people who were over 21 but looked young and did not have proper identification.

Researchers conducted 159 pseudo-underage and 159 pseudo-intoxicated purchase attempts at 16 professional sports stadiums located in five states. Purchase attempts were made at 20 baseball games in five stadiums, 15 basketball games in four stadiums, eight hockey games in four stadiums, and 10 football games in five stadiums.

Based on their findings, the study's authors call for bans on sales of alcohol in the stands in places where that is politically feasible. Researchers conclude that vendors in the stands are more likely to make mistakes because they are further away from the patrons.

Researchers also call for more focus on how to prevent sales to obviously intoxicated fans. Citing past research, the study's authors say that sales to underage drinkers have decreased considerably since the early 1990s. Sale rates to intoxicated fans now mirror sale rates to underage fans back then.

The most effective way to reduce sales to underage fans has been compliance checks in which authorities send in undercover youths to buy drinks. When those young buyers are successful, there are penalties. While this particular tactic is harder to replicate for selling to intoxicated patrons, more research needs to be done into effective strategies, the study says.

"Funding and attention to the issue of alcohol sales to underage youth has made a difference," the researchers write. "Communities and states need to continue working to prevent sales to underage youth; however, more resources and attention also need to be focused on preventing alcohol sales to obviously intoxicated patrons."

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