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Gambling addiction hotline struggles to meet demand after sports gambling apps become legal

Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling says it's receiving 138% increase in calls
Posted at 10:28 PM, Feb 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-12 05:28:39-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, the nonprofit contracted to run Florida's addictive gambling prevention program, said it's struggling to meet demand after sports betting apps allowed more consumers to make bets.

Executive Director Jennifer Kruse said the group isn't aware of not providing services to somebody who has called for help as of Thursday. But, she said, it's a possibility as calls increased by 138% over one month from December to January.

"We do the best that we can," Kruse said. "I don't to date know of an issue where we have not responded to somebody in need of help. I can't tell you that that's always going to be the case. You know, we're just now starting the tip of the iceberg in terms of those volume increases."

Kruse said the helpline is also seeing "exponential increases" in texts and chats, which she thinks is due to these apps on people's phones where it's easier to write messages. She said the increases aren't sustainable.

Jennifer Kruse, executive director of Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling
Jennifer Kruse is the executive director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.

"I mean, you take any business that saw double growth overnight, they couldn't sustain that," Kruse said. "It's not sustainable. You can't go from 0 to 100 overnight."

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling predicts it will receive about 40,000 calls this current fiscal year, which is higher than the about 26,000 calls it saw the previous year. Kruse said the group is seeing the largest increase from young adult men.

Sunday is the first time people in Florida can bet legally on the Super Bowl after it became legal in December. The American Gaming Association said it expects a record 67.8 Million Americans to bet on the game, which is a 35% increase from 2023's survey from the industry group.

It also predicts people will wager a total of $23.1 billion, more than $16 billion higher than last year's prediction.

State code requires the program for compulsive gaming to receive $250,000 each year from facilities with a parimutuel betting licensee. But, Kruse said, the group doesn't receive all those dollars and hasn't received an increase in funding since fiscal year 2016-17.

The contract also places specific requirements for advertising, like 15 billboards in Miami-Dade County, rather than guidelines for the state.

Eric Carr, who is the director for external affairs with the Florida Gaming Control Commission — the state agency overseeing the contract — said current state law sets the funding for the compulsive gambling program.

The contract is up for renewal in 2024.