Home » More are calling the Mass. problem gambling helpline — some for IT help

More are calling the Mass. problem gambling helpline — some for IT help

The state’s problem gambling helpline saw a big jump in calls in the months after Massachusetts launched legal sports betting last year, but a public health official said Wednesday that most of that increase was due to calls from bettors mistakenly thinking they could get technical help with their betting apps.

The Department of Public Health said the (800) 327-5050 helpline received 3,050 calls in fiscal year 2023, which included the first five months of legal betting. That’s an increase of 1,672 calls or 121% over the 1,378 calls received in fiscal 2022.

Victor Ortiz, director of DPH’s Office of Problem Gambling Services, told the Public Health Council on Wednesday morning that one-third of the calls the helpline got were “non-helpline calls.”

“These are calls for those who are looking for technical support or assistance for their sports wagering mobile applications or platforms,” he said. “I just want to stress here that the staff who answer these calls, we owe a debt of gratitude to their work … and what they do on an everyday basis.”

NCAA President Charlie Baker, Massachusetts’ former governor, joined Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell to discuss a plan to educate young people about responsible gambling and the potential dangers.

Call volume was highest from February through June 2023, DPH said, with 2,069 calls in the months immediately after betting began and residents were crushed by a wave of advertisements all required to list the problem gambling hotline phone number. But 1,043 of the calls in that time period were “non-helpline” calls, the report said.

Calls from individuals related to their own gambling problem that resulted in a referral to treatment services increased by 41% to 636 in fiscal 2023, with 73 people citing sports betting as the reason they sought assistance.

While a relatively small part of the overall call volume, DPH said the 73 individuals seeking help for sports betting in fiscal 2023 represented a 1,117% increase from fiscal 2022, when only six callers referred to treatment reported sports betting as their main concern.

DPH said the increases in calls to the problem gambling helpline and referrals made because of those calls are “likely the result of improvement in helpline services in coordination with public awareness campaigns, community efforts to provide individuals and families with education and resources, and sports wagering advertisements.”

“There is currently no evidence to support that the increase in call volume and referrals is a direct result of an increase in problem gambling in the Commonwealth,” the department said.

With several gambling scandals making headlines, Drew Dinsick, host of “Bet the EDGE” podcast, explains why this will be an important for players and personnel to educate themselves on gambling policies in order to main the integrity of the game across the four major sports leagues.