The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling says it has seen a big increase in the number of calls it is receiving to its helpline since the launch of online gaming in Connecticut.
A state legislative committee is planning on conducting a study on the prevalence of gambling problems in Connecticut and with the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday, proponents of responsible gambling think a study is what Connecticut needs.
NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran spoke with Diane Goode, the executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling about the issue.
Dan: So, Diana, what have you been seeing since the launch of online gaming and sports wagering?
Diana: We've been very busy since that launch. And I just want to start by saying that Connecticut Council isn't for or against gambling. We just want to make sure that as gambling becomes easier and more accessible, that safeguards are in place. And right now, we're very concerned about those safeguards. Online gambling and sports betting is so quick and so easy to do from your living room from your phone, that we want to make sure that there's an extra level of safeguards in place for people who run into trouble.
Dan: So let's talk more about that. Are you seeing an increase in the number of requests for help with gambling addiction since the summer?
Diana: We are. Helpline calls have increased; they've pretty much quadrupled since the start of sports betting and online gambling. We have seen not just an increase in calls, but an increase in chats as well, which I think really reflects the new demographic. When you used to talk about problem gambling, you think about the little old lady at the slot machine. The new demographic now are 20-something males. So we really are seeing an uptick in chats and texts.
Dan: There have been some requests for a study about gambling problems. Do you think that is something the legislature should be taking up? And if so what else do you think should be done?
Diana: Definitely. A gambling study would be fantastic. There was legislation put in place about 15 years ago saying that every 10 years, we need to study in gambling, and we haven't had one in 14 years. A lot has changed in 14 years. So I think we really do need another gambling study. It would have been great to have a before and after study. But we'll take anything at this point. We really think it's important to understand what's out there and what's happening to people.
Dan: Now Sunday, as you know, is the first Super Bowl since sports wagering was legalized here in Connecticut, there could be a lot of money on this game. Are you concerned about what that could mean for certain people?
Diana: We are. One of the things that we've done over the last couple of months is designed a new website to go along with our problem gambling website, which is a responsible gambling website, responsibleplayct.org. And that gives people some tips and tricks about how to gamble responsibly. There are a lot of people that gamble and it's fun. That's the way they want to spend their disposable income. We have no problem with that. For people who are kind of teetering on the edge and are thinking I don't know if I have a problem or not. I think my gambling is getting out of control. Check out the new website. It's got a lot of things that you can do to make sure your gambling stays in check, set a limit a time limit, a budget. There are a lot of things that you can do to make sure that gambling stays fun and doesn't run into a problem.