Gambling Addiction Hotlines Seeing Boom in Calls, With Callers Getting Younger

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As legal sports betting continues to grow across the United States, gambling addiction hotlines are seeing a significantly increased frequency of calls. At the same time, the individuals that are making those calls are getting younger and younger, with young adult males becoming the most frequent callers of gambling addiction hotlines.

Though it may be expected that the gross rate of calls would increase following the legalization of sports betting in a given state, reports indicate the proportion of which the calls have increased has gone beyond expectations and is not limited to states where legal sports betting has been legalized in the current year or year prior.

In Virginia, a state that legalized sports betting in early 2020, calls to the state's gambling hotline increased by 788% from 2019-2022, per the Capital News Service.

Carolyn Hawley, the president of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, told Axios that callers to the hotline now tend to be 18-25 year old men.

In Arizona, a state that legalized sports betting in September 2021, a similar trend has followed. While full data is not available for the most recent quarter, calls doubled from 2021 to 2022 and increased in 2023, with the state's text message option also showing a significant but not as extreme increase.

But the trend is not unique to states where bettors have been exposed to legal sports betting for years. In Ohio, where sports betting was legalized in January 2023, calls to the state's problem gambling helpline increased by 55% in the first year of legal sports betting, per data from Ohio for Responsible Gambling.

Additionally, per, the state's problem gambling rate has tripled since 2012. Again, in recent years, the trend has shifted towards younger males.

For Ohio's Problem Gambling Network, calls related to sports betting have become the predominant occurrence, moving ahead of slot and lottery calls, per Michael Buzzelli, the organization's associate director, and NBC.

In January, a bicameral bill was introduced with the goal of fighting gambling addiction and promoting resources available for treatment, highlighting that legislators are aware and actively looking to combat the issue.

The GRIT Act (Gambling addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment) would set aside a federal funding stream to prevent and aid in the recovery of gambling addiction.

In March, a host of leading sportsbook operators in the United States formed the Responsible Online Gaming Association. The association claimed it was aiming to promote responsible gaming best practices, consumer and industry responsible gaming education and awareness, and an independent data clearinghouse.

Though we have yet to see any official developments from the association, it is clear that both legislators and operators are aware of the potential significant issue that is developing. It may be a make or break time for the industry and the impact it has on the country.

For more information on responsible gaming news and practices, be sure to visit our responsible gaming hub.

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