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DPH: Calls to gambling help hotlines more than doubled in last fiscal year

BOSTON — As the frequency of gambling ads has increased throughout the Bay State, so too have the calls for gambling support resources, the Massachusetts Department of Public House said Wednesday.

The Problem Gambling Helpline received 3,050 calls in the 2023 fiscal year, up 121% percent from the 1,378 calls in 2022, the DPH says. Calls looking for support and information increased by 41% and calls resulting in referrals specifically for outpatient treatment increased by 96%.

The DPH says there is no evidence to support that the increase in call volume is due to problem gambling but is more likely due to improvements in helpline services and more advertising for resources.

“As access to gambling expands in Massachusetts, we remain focused on supporting and promoting prevention, referral, and treatment options to help those with a gambling problem,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. “The Problem Gambling Helpline is a centerpiece of these efforts. We are committed to working with our state and community partners to connect Commonwealth residents to appropriate resources so that people get the care they need.”

The report from DPH also found:

  • Calls from individuals seeking help increased to 380 in FY23 from 301 in FY22, while calls from loved ones of those with a gambling problem increased to 148 in FY23 from 106 in FY22.
  • Calls from individuals in recovery increased to 89 in FY23, compared to 27 in FY22, an increase of 230 percent.
  • Referrals by gambling type for casinos increased to 170 in FY23 from 45 in FY22, an increase of 278 percent.
  • Male callers increased by 56 percent to 500 in FY23 from 321 in FY22 while the number of female callers remained about the same – 137 in FY23 compared to 131 in FY22.
  • Calls seeking referrals for treatment increased across all age groups in FY23. Those 30-to–39-years-old represented a 293 percent increase – to 169 in FY23 from 43 in FY22.
  • Referral calls increased across all regions. The state’s Northeast region had the largest increase of 62 percent – to 123 in FY23 from 76 in FY22.

“The Problem Gambling Helpline provides an important connection between those who are experiencing problem gambling — including sports betting — and services that can help,” said Victor Ortiz, Director of the Office of Problem Gambling Services. “Expanded access to gambling in the Commonwealth poses risks, particularly to those in recovery, and highlights the need to provide responsive referrals to callers based on their needs. The OPGS is committed to monitoring the ongoing impacts of sports wagering and expanded access to gambling on individuals, families, and communities in the Commonwealth.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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