Is Connecticut Doing Enough To Curb Problem Gambling?
Online gambling has been available in Connecticut for about three months, and it’s bringing in millions of dollars in revenue. But it’s also creating more problems for undisciplined gamblers. The state’s helpline has been overwhelmed with calls. CT Problem Gambling Is On The Rise.
Problem Gambling On The Rise
“As gambling becomes easier and more accessible we want to make sure protections are in place and right now they really aren’t,”Diana Goode of the Connecticut Council on Sports Gambling.
Three months into the new era of convenience gambling, Connecticut has crude tools to measure problem gambling. Sports gambling has been a big win for the tribes and the casinos. But for many gamblers, the new world of online gaming is causing alarming concerns.
Diana Goode of the Connecticut Council on Sports Gambling reported to the Public Safety Committee that it could get out of hand. Goode said more awareness is the key. “It’s important to know you can exclude yourself from betting. The online apps let you be removed for one year, five years, or a lifetime, without exception.”
You can reach a helpline by calling the CT Council on Problem Gambling at 888-789-7777, or you can chat or email at ccpg.org.
The Tale of the Tape
Data doesn’t lie. CT Problem Gambling Is On The Rise. Here are some sobering insights:
- About 1.1% of Connecticut adults, or 39,665, are believed to have a gambling disorder, according to the National Survey of Problem Gambling Services.
- Connecticut’s problem-gambling hotline is busiest on Mondays, the day after America’s holy day of televised NFL football, when ubiquitous ads offer “free play” and “risk-free” bets.
- Compared to November 2020, hotline calls were up 87% in November 2021, the first full month after Connecticut flipped the switch on online gambling
- the dominant demographic are young men, ages of 21 thru 24, identified as most susceptible to gambling addiction, especially on sports. Gambling in Connecticut is legal for those 21 and older. Problem gambling is an “almost silent issue” on college campuses.
- young people are particularly at risk because they see their parents gambling online or betting on sports teams
- The jump in hotline calls is a red flag, one not yet reflected in the number of patients in addiction treatment.
- Connecticut activated an online voluntary self-exclusion list in September, but only 336 people have signed up to bar themselves from betting for a year, five years or life, according to the Department of Consumer Protection, which regulates gaming.
Shouldn’t Gamblers Needs Come First?
Yes, Gamblers’ needs when it comes to problem gambling should come first. Unfortunately, however, Connecticut does not actively collect data, which the National Council on Problem Gambling says should be available in an anonymous form. The reams of data collected on the habits of these new online gamblers could be far more enlightening, but it is seen only by the casinos and sportsbooks, not the state.
The law and regulations require some of the safeguards recommended by the National Council on Problem Gambling in 2018. For example, one recommended safeguard expects states to notify online gamblers when their lifetime spending exceeds $2,500.
How often are these gamblers in the Nutmeg state notified? Connecticut has no idea.
The National Council on Problem Gambling also recommends that any state expanding gambling should first consider monitoring the social and psychological impacts of convenience gambling, not just its revenues. But unfortunately, it seems the opposite has happened in Connecticut.
Revenue Keeps Pouring In As Problem Gambling Is On The Rise
One thing the state does measure precisely is the money made from online gambling.
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- Connecticut gamblers have wagered $2.6 billion with online gambling in less than three months.
- Connecticut gamblers bet $325 million on sports and $2.3 billion on digital casino games since the soft launch in early October through Dec. 31.
- After paying off the winners, the sportsbooks kept $21.5 million and the online casinos $36.8 million.
- The state collected its cut of nearly $10 million — $2.96 million from sports betting, $6.57 million from digital casino games.
None of it has gone to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, but it should!
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CCPG Needs Financial Help to Help Others
The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling annual budget is $750,000, primarily funded by voluntary contributions from the two tribal casinos, the CT Lottery and the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Goode said, “We cannot afford to add staff or even think about trying to counter the ad blitz underway from FanDuel and DraftKings, the two highest-grossing sportsbooks in the United States.”
In addition to the taxes paid monthly to the state, the two casinos must provide $500,000 annually to prevent and treat problem gambling. In addition, the CT Lottery must pay $1 million. Goode assumed that a significant portion of that money would go to the CCPG, and at least some would be available not long after the launch of sports betting and online casino gambling. Unfortunately, she was wrong on both counts.
Financial Help Is Needed
The law in Connecticut is clear regarding the cash flow to the state requires all three sportsbooks, and the two casinos report revenues and pay taxes monthly. But, nothing in the state confirms where that money must go. It’s even vague concerning who is eligible to receive it.
Both tribes say they intend to maintain their support of the council. Last year, Mohegan Sun contributed $23,000 a month; Foxwoods $18,000.
Gambling has become convenient in Connecticut. Many Connecticut residents have the discipline to gamble responsibly on any format. You can gamble any time from the comfort of your home, on your phone, which can be disastrous for others.
It’s not that the new forms of gambling necessarily are more addictive. It’s that they’re so much more accessible and appeal to gamblers who have their own set of vulnerabilities.
It seems that Connecticut thought about revenue first and protecting its residents second. It should have been the other way around. But, hey, casinos, CT Lottery, and legislators, your residents need your support, and they need it now.