May 16, 2024 3 min read


Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline Sees a Surge in Calls

Although an increasing number of individuals contact the service with non-helpline calls, its efforts remain invaluable in assisting people suffering gambling harm

The Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline experienced a significant surge in calls following the legalization of sports betting in the state last year. However, according to a public health official, a substantial portion of this increase was due to calls from bettors mistakenly seeking technical assistance for their preferred sports betting apps.

Non-helpline Calls Emerged as a Persistent Issue

In fiscal year 2023, the helpline received 3,050 calls, marking a 121% increase from the 1,378 calls in FY 2022. This period encompassed the first five months after the legalization of sports wagering. The highest call volume occurred from February through June 2023, with 2,069 calls logged in these months. This spike coincided with a surge in advertisements for sports betting.

Massachusetts regulations require operators to include the helpline number on their promotional materials, explaining the service’s increased popularity. According to a recent report by NBC Boston, Victor Ortiz, the director of the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Office of Problem Gambling Services, stated that one-third of these calls were “non-helpline calls.”

These are calls for those who are looking for technical support or assistance for their sports wagering mobile applications or platforms.

Victor Ortiz, DPH Office of Problem Gambling Services director

Ortiz thanked the hotline’s hard-working staff, who navigated such challenges daily, ensuring individuals in need received the proper assistance. However, the substantial percentage of non-helpline calls could indicate a significant misdirection of inquiries. Raising awareness of the service could help mitigate such cases, ensuring staff can focus on gambling harm prevention.

The Helpline Remains a Vital Harm-Prevention Tool

Despite the influx of non-helpline calls, there was a notable increase in calls related to actual gambling problems. Calls resulting in referrals to treatment services rose by 41% to 636 in FY 2023, with 73 individuals citing sports betting as the reason for seeking help. Although this number represents a small fraction of the total calls, it constitutes a dramatic increase of 1,117% from FY 2022, when only six callers reported sports betting as their primary concern.

The DPH attributed the overall rise in helpline calls and referrals to improved helpline services, public awareness campaigns, community education efforts, and the widespread advertising of sports betting. According to the department, current data did not suggest that the increased call volume correlated with a rise in problem gambling but instead reflected the service’s improved exposure.

The Problem Gambling Helpline provides an important connection between those who are experiencing problem gambling — including sports betting — and services that can help.

Victor Ortiz, DPH Office of Problem Gambling Services director

While the surge in calls indicates heightened public engagement and awareness, the significant proportion of non-helpline calls underscores the need for clear communication and better support channels for technical issues related to sports betting apps. Such measures will ensure that those genuinely seeking help for gambling problems can access the necessary resources as quickly as possible.

Deyan is an experienced writer, analyst, and seeker of forbidden lore. He has approximate knowledge about many things, which he is always willing to apply when researching and preparing his articles. With a degree in Copy-editing and Proofreading, Deyan is able to ensure that his work writing for GamblingNews is always up to scratch.

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