Online sports betting and casino games have taken over Connecticut this month, raising concerns about an explosive increase in already common issues blamed on gambling addiction: heavier personal debt, broken relationships and crime.
After years of debate and repeated legislative attempts to expand gambling beyond the state’s two tribal casinos, sports betting, lottery games, and casino games were allowed last week in Connecticut on the phones, tablets, laptops and other devices.
“You now have a casino in your pocket,” said Cam Adair, founder of Game Quitters, a global video game addiction support community.
As players have access to a huge range of gambling with just the tap of an app, casinos can also easily reach players by emailing them offers and sending notifications to phones. “It’s a lot different choosing to go somewhere,” Adair said.
The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services says that wider access to gambling with online betting exposes players to “vulnerabilities,” such as financial hardship, difficult relationships with family members and their families. relatives, poor job performance, an increase in money-related crime and one reported an increase in the severity of symptoms related to mental health.
Adair said young people are particularly at risk because they see their parents playing online or betting on sports teams. Gambling in Connecticut is legal for those 21 and over.
“The earlier they start, the easier it is to develop problems in the future,” he said.
One demographic he watches are men aged 21 to 24 who attend college and who are more prone to problem gambling than others, especially due to the allure of sports betting. Problem gambling is an “almost silent problem” on college campuses, he said.
As the legislation progressed, negotiations between Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and the Mohegans, who own and operate the Mohegan Sun, and the Mashantucket Pequots, who run the Foxwoods Resort Casino, focused on the allocation millions of dollars in revenue from the expansion of the game and change the agreements governing casino games in Connecticut.
But problem gambling advocates have said more could have been done to protect bettors prone to addictive behavior.
Diana Goode, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, said Connecticut does not allow players who know they have a problem to self-exclude or submit to casino and online bans.
Self-exclusion is “incredibly difficult,” she said – players must notify the State Department of Consumer Protection and both casinos. Defenders are asking for a simpler approach for players to self-exclude.
Apart from self-exclusion, casinos can limit the time and money a player spends, giving players the ability to set financial limits on their accounts.
Goode also said that a problem gambling phone number, which must be advertised to offer help to problem gamblers, is too small on bulletin boards and ineffective.
Senator Cathy Osten, co-chair of the Legislative Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee, said legislation that expands gambling in Connecticut “dramatically increases” funding for problem gambling and provides for self-exclusion which wasn’t available when Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods opened in the 1990s.
“When the slots came in, there was nothing,” Osten said, D-Sprague.
Representative Maria Horn, chair of the committee in the House, said she and her colleagues had worked on the legislation as a consumer protection bill to complement the deal between Lamont and the casinos. State lawmakers will likely revisit the matter next year, she said.
Online gambling may be more effective at identifying problem gambling “than we sometimes do in person,” she said, citing age restrictions imposed by digital technology.
The Connecticut Lottery Corp. has made an annual contribution of $ 2.3 million to a chronic gambler treatment rehabilitation account since 2013, according to the Department of Consumer Protection. An additional $ 1 million has been allowed in recent legislation.
Problem that is getting worse?
Goode expects problem gambling to get worse with the expansion of games in Connecticut, but not immediately.
“It takes a little while before people realize that they haven’t won and that they have a problem,” she said. “You could win and that’s what makes it so addicting and keep going.
“When you ask someone about their gambling history, it usually starts with a big payoff. “
The industry says technology that brings immediacy to gambling can also be used to detect and help gamers avoid problem gambling. Tools used online can detect unusual behavior that indicates a possible gambling problem, according to iDevelopment and Economic Development Association, an industry trade group.
Industry representatives say they are shutting down marketing messages to reported players and providing instructions to players on how to set limits, according to iDevelopment, which represents numerous companies including DraftKings, Foxwoods’ sports betting partner. .
Guidelines posted by Mohegan Sun on its website warn bettors that gambling is not essential to having a good time, cautions against borrowing to gamble when the money cannot be paid back and gambling when lonely, angry or depressed can lead to excessive losses.
And in a vivid comment for a casino, it reminds players that the odds are “always against winning”.
About 1.1% of adults in Connecticut, or 39,665, have a gambling disorder, according to the National Association of Administrators for Disordered Gambling Services National Survey of Problem Gambling Services and cited by the State Department of mental health and addiction services.
A 2017 World Health Organization study shows that an increase in gambling leads to a slight increase in gambling disorders, but it’s not a big fluctuation.
Advances over the past 30 years, such as advice on problem gambling and the inclusion of gambling disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, are “not enough,” he said.
“What amazes me is that gambling as an issue is not discussed,” Adair said. “No one asks if gambling is a serious problem that can damage someone’s life. “
The state’s confidential problem gambling hotline is available 24 hours a day at 888-789-7777. Additional resources for those seeking help can be found on the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ Problem Gambling page.
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