Advocates want to boost resources for the 24-hour hotline in FL to respond to gambling addiction

By: - May 17, 2021 7:39 pm

Sportsbook in Las Vegas. Credit: Baishampayan Ghose, Wikipedia Commons

Expanding gambling in Florida, including legal sports betting and other casino games, would require additional resources to assist an expected increase of residents who could experience gambling addiction, according to a statewide council.

During the special session on a new gaming compact that began Monday, the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling wants lawmakers in both chambers to address issues surrounding gambling problems, such as increasing awareness of its 24-hour hotline and expanding operations to respond to a larger volume of callers.

“There is an opportunity this week and if there is a way that we can address the impacts of the compulsive gambling hotline that is only allowed to operate in (Miami)-Dade and Broward (counties) right now,” Richard Pinsky, a lobbyist representing the council, said in a committee meeting in the Florida House.

“It certainly would be a good thing for all Floridians.”

The council would work with the Seminole Tribe to provide online resources and display printed material about compulsive gambling at its facilities, according to the compact.

The tribe would be required to make an annual donation of at least $250,000 “per operational gaming facility” to the organization but advocates want more funding to respond to residents across the state.

“We answer every call live. We don’t let any call go to an answering machine…so that means we would have to add additional people, the costs go up,” Pinsky said before a House panel.

“So the notion that we are going to be inundated with new calls from all over the state of Florida, without any additional help, is scary at best.”

In addition to legalizing sports wagering, the tribe in partnership with pari-mutuels, would exclusively operate casino games such as craps, roulette, slots, blackjack, poker, and more, if lawmakers approve during the special session. (Keep in mind that the federal government also would have to approve.)

Despite the likelihood of more gambling problems among residents because of a proposed expansion in gaming opportunities, Floridians are largely unaware of the hotline for help with addiction, Pinsky said.

Pinsky added that the council holds a neutral position on gaming expansion in Florida.

Meanwhile, with many teenagers and people under 21 owning cellphones and having access to gambling apps, young people could be susceptible to gambling addiction, advocates argue.

“If I could show you the actual transcripts it would wrench your heart to see folks that reach out, the younger demographic. That’s exactly who does the sports wagering and fantasy sports, college students and those under 30. And they are also the most at-risk group,” he said.

“Don’t leave here by ignoring the impact upon society and the residents of Florida.”

The rules for sports betting would restrict the game to those 21 years old and up, according to the compact, with sports betting offered via mobile devices statewide but connected to servers on tribal land. The arrangement is meant to get around Amendment 3, which does not apply to tribal land.

In 2019-20, 40 percent of callers to the Florida council’s 24-hour hotline reported that they started gambling at 25 or younger, said Jennifer Kruse, executive director of the council.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.