MiamiCommunity & Society

Florida's Gambling Helpline Swamped by Surge in Calls Amid Sports Betting App Legalization

Florida's Gambling Helpline Swamped by Surge in Calls Amid Sports Betting App LegalizationSource: Google Street View
Ethan Anderson
Published on February 12, 2024

As sports betting apps have become a legal pastime in Florida, the state's Council on Compulsive Gambling hotline is buckling under a surge of calls for help. As reports from NBC6 and WPTV have highlighted a dramatic 138% uptick in demand from December to January, painting a picture of a support system at its breaking point. Officials at the council are grappling with nearly double the number of helpline inquiries — an unprecedented spike following the legalization of mobile betting on athletic events.

The fervor of digital gambling reached a fever pitch with Sunday marking the first legal opportunity for Floridians to stake their claims on the Super Bowl, further intensifying call volumes. According to the council, helpline interactions have ballooned to the point where an estimated 40,000 calls are expected this fiscal year alone, towering over the 26,000 calls from the prior year, with young adult men accounting for a sizable portion of the increase. While Jennifer Kruse, the executive director, assured that thus far no call has gone unanswered, she warns her team is "just now starting the tip of the iceberg in terms of those volume increases," as reported by NBC6.

Not just calls, but texts and chats are experiencing "exponential increases," a testament to the ease of access afforded by these gambling apps resting in bettors' palms. "I mean, you take any business that saw double growth overnight, they couldn't sustain that," Kruse emphasized, pointing to the unsustainability of this trend in a statement obtained by WPTV. Add to that a historic wagering prediction of $23.1 billion for the Super Bowl by the American Gaming Association, and it's clear why the helpline is strained.

Yet, as calls escalate, funding hasn't seen the light of day. The program, in dire need of financial infusion, has been locked at a $250,000 yearly contribution from parimutuel betting licensees since 2016-17. Despite the contract mandating advertised concerns, such as the requirement to place 15 billboards in Miami-Dade County, the dollars aren't stretching to meet the growing crisis, Kruse highlighted. Eric Carr from the Florida Gaming Control Commission, who oversees the contract, stated that current state law decides the program's funding. With the terms set to be reconsidered in 2024, the overwhelming number of calls might just be the herald urging the state to rethink its support for those battling with the lure of the gamble.

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