Feb 28, 2024 - News

Calls to gambling helpline spike amid legal sports betting

Illustration of "HELP" spelled out on the receiver of a telephone.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Florida's gambling addiction helpline has seen a surge in calls since Seminole Hard Rock Casino's sports betting app launched.

Why it matters: The data is one way to gauge the immediate impact sports betting has had on gambling behavior, addiction and available resources for those affected.

By the numbers: The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, which operates the helpline, tells Axios that calls increased over 100% from December to January.

  • Online gambling exploded 135% between 2019 and 2023, per 888-ADMIT-IT helpline data. The helpline also saw spikes in illegal electronic gambling, like internet sweepstakes.

Flashback: The Seminole Tribe of Florida launched sports betting at its casinos and on the Hard Rock Bet mobile app in December after a two-year delay due to legal challenges.

The big picture: Florida was first in the U.S. for calls to problem gambling helplines in 2021, and that trend shows no sign of abating.

  • The council is projecting about 40,000 calls this year, up from around 26,000 last year and about 23,000 in 2021.

What we're watching: Florida's gambling boom has outpaced funding for addressing its fallout. The state ranked 34th out of 44 states in per capita public funds earmarked for problem gambling services.

  • The council says its staff can handle the current call volume but may need more help if the trend continues.
  • They are recommending that all gambling operators in Florida participate in the prevention program to ensure fairness in the "provision of problem gambling services and funding."

The other side: "Hard Rock Bet is committed to player safety and responsible gambling," Gary Bitner, a spokesperson for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, tells Axios.

  • "The Seminole Tribe contributes annually as the largest funder of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling," he adds.
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