The Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling (CCPG) says calls to the council-operated problem gambling hotline have increased by 203% in just six months.
The increased volume is the direct result of the state’s October 2021 launch of online gambling and sports betting in CT.
Hotline overwhelmed, even with increased staffing
Diana Goode, CCPG’s Executive Director, said the crushing spike in calls was unexpected, especially so soon after Connecticut’s online gambling launch only six months ago.
“I kind of was blindsided by that,” she said. “Because normally it takes a little while for problem gamblers to hit rock bottom and to think that they have a problem.”
As call volume skyrocketed after launch, the CCPG added two additional employees to their problem gambling hotline staff. The new workers came on board in February and March, respectively.
Since the additional staff still only brings the hotline team to a total of five workers, Goode says they still need help. “We don’t have the resources to keep up with this, especially nights and weekends,” she said. “Everybody’s getting burned out.”
Nuisance calls distracting from people who need real help
A big portion of the calls the hotline has been receiving is what Goode calls “nuisance” calls. These are from callers who aren’t struggling with gambling addiction, but with technical issues or complaints about the online gambling platform.
Online gambling regulations in Connecticut require gambling platforms to display the below message to customers who display evidence of gambling addiction. “If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call (888) 789-7777 or text ‘CTGAMB’ to 53342″.
Goode believes that nuisance calls are a direct result of platforms abbreviating this required notice and causing confusion for customers. She suggests that the shorter message may be intentional to take that workload off of platform employees.
“They want every second of their time to be spent on trying to get people to gamble more,” she said, referring to companies who manage Connecticut’s gambling platforms. “So that’s why even saving three or four seconds, it’s a big deal to them, but it’s really hurting us.”
With nuisance calls taken out of the mix, the increase in hotline call volume since October reflects only 126%. While this is still a wild uptick, it would make the workload more manageable for the hotline team.
What operators are doing to prevent problem gambling
Some are looking to CT gambling companies for answers on the clear increase in overall gambling addiction in Connecticut. However, both casinos and sportsbooks say they’re already doing their part to prevent it.
DraftKings partners with Foxwoods Resort Casino to offer their online sportsbook to patrons. Representatives from both companies referred to their existing addiction prevention efforts in the form of:
- The platform’s setup allowing bet limits and overall spending limits
- The companies’ annual contributions to the CCPG
Anika Howard, Mashantucket Pequot Interactive’s president, says the casino is already directing efforts to stop addiction before it becomes a problem.
“We believe that ultimately, the most effective programs stop problem gambling behaviors before they start,” she said. “To that end, we are developing a comprehensive plan that covers education, prevention and treatment.”
Access increases activity
Two other online gambling operators have license in Connecticut:
- Mohegan Sun partners with FanDuel, which provides its online sportsbook.
- The Connecticut Lottery, Rush Street Interactive, partners with PlaySugarHouse’s sportsbook.
Neither Mohegan Sun nor FanDuel have made statements regarding the uptick in problem gambling calls.
Rush Street Interactive, however, makes a statement that its own platforms have accreditation by the Responsible Gaming Council. They were the first US online gambling company to earn said accreditation.
Goode has also confirmed that the PlaySugarHouse sportsbook has far less nuisance calls than the other two operators.
Rush Street Interactive made a statement saying they suspect the spike in call volume is temporary. They indicate that it is a result of growing pains with regard to Connecticut’s emergence onto the online gambling market.
“We believe this spike in calls is customary after a market launches,” the statement said. “As customers are learning the new platforms offered across the jurisdiction, and they are generally receiving more information about how to access problem gambling resource.”