Calls to Gambling Help Hotline Have Reportedly More Than Doubled Since Florida Sports Betting Relaunch

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: May 11, 2024 08:00 PM
Calls to Gambling Help Hotline Have Reportedly More Than Doubled Since Florida Sports Betting Relaunch

Since the return of Florida sports betting at the end of 2023, there has reportedly been a substantial increase in calls to problem gambling hotlines.

According to FOX 35 in Orlando, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling has found that the “number of potential gambling addicts is on the rise” in the Sunshine State. This, of course, is to be expected. The relaunch of legal sports betting in Florida immediately made it more accessible. With more accessibility comes more participants. And with more participants invariably comes an increase in risk—”risk,” in this case, referring to problem gambling.

That doesn’t make this news excusable. Indeed, the rise of online sportsbooks in the United States comes with inherent concessions. Problem gambling is atop the list. Most states have now decided it makes more sense to regulate it and deal with the fallout rather than making it illegal and driving certain residents to bet offshore. But you have to deal with that fallout. 

Florida is no exception. What are they doing, if anything, to address these reports? And just how much has the relaunch of sports betting throughout Florida impacted problem gambling? 

More Time May be Needed to Measure True Impact Florida Sports Betting has on Problem Gambling

Pretty much everything we discuss from hereon must be presented alongside a colossal caveat: We need to let the Florida sports betting market expand its sample size before making any profound declarations.

To be sure, problem gambling reports will absolutely surge. But sports betting in the Sunshine State has yet to be back for a full year. At this writing, in fact, its return is less than six months old. Initial numbers can be too aggressive in the interim. They could also flip the other way and be too conservative.

For the time being, though, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling says that “calls to the state's gambling help hotline more than doubled after online sports betting was made legal” this past December. While this kind of increase is not unique, it is still massive. And there’s no telling whether it will decrease in the months to come, as Florida seeks to wrap up their first full year of legal sports gambling.

Here’s What Florida is Doing to Try Addressing the Reported Increase in Problem Gambling 

To try combating this issue, a group of online sportsbooks in the USA are banding together to create a responsible gaming program. Here are the full details, via FOX 35 in Orlando:

Just this month, seven of the U.S.'s largest online betting operators have joined together to create the Responsible Online Gaming Association, including Hard Rock Interactive. "I think Hard Rock and the Seminole Tribe want to screen out problem gamblers. They don't want to make money on the backs of problem gamblers," said Daniel Wallach of Wallach Legal, a law firm specializing in matters of gaming and sports betting. "Nobody does. It's bad for the industry.”

This is good news. The Responsible Online Gaming Association will never be a panacea for problem gambling, but (meaningful) effort to regulate and treat it can help. 

At the same time, I must disagree with Mr. Wallach’s point about U.S. sportsbooks and problem gamblers. Granted, his sentiment may be true for Hard Rock and the Seminole tribe specifically. Especially now. They are the only sports betting operators in the state, so they don’t have to worry about drumming up clientele against competition. And on top of that, the status of Florida sports betting remains in review with the Supreme Court of the United States. Joining this cause won’t make their case to stay active a foregone conclusion, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Could Problem Gambling Issues Worsen in Florida Moving Forward?

To this end, though, the current setup for Florida online sports betting is on the more restrictive end. And that invites a necessary question: Could we invariably see the problem gambling get worse?

Right now, Floridians are only allowed to bet on sports using the Seminole tribe sports betting app or by visiting one of their brick-and-mortar casino locations. That doesn’t project to change, assuming the Supreme Court upholds their gaming compact with the state.

Still, eventually, sports betting in Florida should expand to include other casino operators and top online sportsbooks in the United States. It may not be for a while, but so long as sports gambling in the USA remains legal, Florida is too glitzy of a market to have just one operator. 

In theory, then, we could see another massive increase in problem gambling once this expansion takes place. The addition of other betting options will only make sports wagering more accessible. And as we said before, any increase in access tends to coincide with an uptick in risk. 

Of course, this concern could prove to be moot. As of now, the Seminole tribe Florida online sports betting app can be accessed off tribal land. They have argued the servers running the mobile betting site are an extension of their property. That logic has held up (so far). And this means sports betting is more readily available to Floridians than other states with single betting providers.

Nevertheless, reports of problem gambling in the Sunshine State will be worth monitoring if and when sports gambling services expand. And really, as the doubled-pup increase shows, this is an issue Florida already needs to have at the top of their radar.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan Favale leverages over 12 years of sports journalism expertise in his role as New York staff writer. He provides in-depth analysis across the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, tennis, NASCAR, college basketball, and sports betting. Dan co-hosts the popular Hardwood Knocks NBA podc...

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