Opinion: People shouldn’t have to pre-game before outings

By Farah Bassyouni Apr7,2023

The town of Balen, Belgium is offering young bar-goers an interesting proposition: show up sober and get free drinks. Upon entry, the bouncer will have a breathalyzer and if patrons are below a certain blood alcohol content, the bouncer will grant them something called “sobercoins.” Sobercoins are vouchers that are good for three free drinks and are changing the culture of drinking in the town. This gambit may raise eyebrows. Surely, bars must be losing money. But, the town has reported many positive side effects: less vandalism, less vomiting and most importantly– drastically less violence. The town of Balen, Belgium sets an example for other countries who experience extreme pregame culture.

Pre-gaming– getting drunk with friends before going to the bar– has become an increasingly popular response to bars’ rising alcohol prices. By drinking earlier at home, pre-gamers hope to save money, have a fun time before arriving and consume more. In turn though, this ritual many people partake in has created more dangerous situations out on the roads and in the bars. The sobercoin is designed to combat pre-gaming by incentivizing drinking less before heading out for a night on the town.

A commonly cited reason for pre-gaming is to save money, but studies have shown that pre-gaming doesn’t actually save as much as bar-goers think. On average, a young adult spends roughly the same amount at a bar whether they pre-game beforehand or not. Another motivation of pre-gaming is simply to consume more alcohol over the course of a night, which can be fun, but also has some obvious dangers. The peer pressures that come with common pre-game activities, such as drinking games or taking shots, can lead people to lose track of their consumption. This can directly cause blackouts, vomiting and can even lead to bigger problems. 

Pre-gaming has become incredibly popular. Studies estimate that 75 percent of young adults drink before going out. Pre-gaming is seen as a social event that usually includes music, games, and good times. Can a promotional gimmick like the sobercoin really kill a ritual that is integral to so many? Plus, it is reasonable for people to consume more than the three free drinks the sobercoin grants. Studies show that the average male enjoys three to five drinks during a pre-game, where on average females consume two to four. So is it really reasonable to expect young adults to simply stop in favor of three free drinks?

The sobercoin simply isn’t a financially sustainable option for all bars to adopt. Despite its immediate success in Balen, it is undoubtedly not a long-term solution. But, it does start a very important conversation. Pre-gaming does come with some serious risks, and the sobercoin asks what can towns, bars, and young adults do to prevent these dangers from becoming realities? One thing is for certain. Eating lots of food, drinking water between drinks and being mindful of consumption rate is a good way to have a good time while still having a safe time.




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