Connecticut Sports Betting: State’s Gambling Hotline is Ringing Nonstop

Connecticut Sports Betting: State’s Gambling Hotline is Ringing Nonstop article feature image

M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: General view of UConn Huskies Helmets.

Calls to Connecticut's problem gambling hotline have more than tripled since the state's gone live with legal online sports betting, according to the nonprofit that runs the call center.

Calls and chats are up 203% since Oct. 12, when DraftKings, FanDuel and PlaySugarHouse first opened their books, according to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling. That's more than double the uptick in calls reported by other states that went live last year, though Connecticut's surge has been inflated by so-called "nuisance calls."

"We have been concerned and surprised by the increased volume of calls/chats of people seeking help with issues arising from the impact of gambling related harms," said Paul Tarbox, a spokesperson with the council. "Typically, many people that suffer from problem gambling take some time before they get to the point where they decide to seek help."

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About 75% of new calls come from bettors seeking customer support, rather than help with addiction, what the council calls "nuisance calls." Diane Goode, the council's executive director, attributes some of the confusion to limited explanations of the hotline's purpose in operators' state-required advertising.

The council's increased call-line operators from three to five to help deal with the outpour in calls, but Tarbox said more resources are needed.

"We expected more support from the casinos than we received," Tarbox said. "Their increase to the CT Council was minimal and didn’t allow us to market our responsible play website or our Helpline. "

Under Connecticut law, the DraftKings-partnered Mohegan Tribe, which owns the Mohegan Sun Casino, and FanDuel-partnered Mashantucket Pequot, owners of the Foxwoods Resort and Casino, must each pay $500,000 a year to support problem gambling programs. The state lottery, which operates the SugarHouse sportsbook, isn't required to pay.

Their per-year fee was adjusted in 2021 since tribes only held licenses from October to December. They've likely funded a combined $219,000 so far.

“We take this issue very seriously, and it has been a central part of our commitment to our host communities and partners since we opened our doors," Ray Pineault, CEO of Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment said in an emailed statement.

He pointed to the tribe's endorsement of legislative efforts to study the scope of problem gambling and said its contributed an additional $8 million to fight problem gambling across all its markets.

Foxwoods officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Virginia, which went live with legal sports betting in January of last year, has experienced a more modest uptick, but if you subtract Connecticut's nuisance calls from the equation the two match up quite similar.

Calls to Virginia's hotline are up 114% since launch, according to Carolyn Hawley, president of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling.

"To have that great of a leap is always shocking, however, based on our trends in the state of an increase in legalization of gambling having a corresponding increase in helpline callers, it was not surprising," Hawley said. "This is related to both a greater need for help for gambling problems as well as heightened awareness of the helpline number."

About 1.1% of Connecticut adults are believed to have a gambling disorder, according to the National Association of Administrators for Disordered Gambling Services's 2021 National Survey of Problem Gambling Services.

Connecticut's problem gambling live chat service is available Monday-Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight. Operators monitor its call center, (888) 789-7777 or (800) 346-6238, 24 hours a day.

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