Half of recent calls to state’s gambling helpline were for help placing mobile sports bets, new report shows

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Of the 2,069 calls since sports betting was legalized, 1,043 were callers “looking for technical support for their sports wagering mobile applications and platforms.”

A display on a garbage can features former Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara in a DraftKings advertisement outside Fenway Park, Friday, March 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The legalization of sports betting in Massachusetts last year coincided with a spike in calls to the state’s gambling helpline, but nearly a third of callers were asking for tech help with their mobile sports platforms, a new report shows.

The helpline saw a 121% increase in calls from July 2022 to June 2023 compared to the previous year, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Office of Problem Gambling Services report released Wednesday. The helpline received a total of 3,050 calls compared to the previous year’s 1,378.

Sports betting hit the casinos beginning Jan. 31, 2023, and mobile sports betting began a few months later on March 10. BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings, ESPNBet, Fanatics Betting & Gaming, and FanDuel all have mobile or online platforms currently licensed by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.

According to DPH’s report, the helpline saw a surge in calls after sports betting was legalized. But of the 2,069 calls from February to June 2023, 1,043 were non-helpline calls, the report said. Those callers were “looking for technical support for their sports wagering mobile applications and platforms.”

The Office of Problem Gambling Services attributed the confusion to an increase in sports wagering advertisements, which list the helpline. 

The report also said there was a 41% increase in referrals to treatment and a 40% increase in calls looking for help for a loved one. There was a nearly 300% increase in calls from 30- to 39-year-olds seeking treatment, the report said. The rate of male callers increased, while the rate of female callers stayed about the same.

The boost in calls doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been an increase in problem gambling in the state, the report said. Victor Ortiz, the director of the Office of Problem Gambling Services, said his office will continue to monitor the affects of the legalization of sports betting.

“The Problem Gambling Helpline provides an important connection between those who are experiencing problem gambling — including sports betting — and services that can help,” Ortiz said. “Expanded access to gambling in the Commonwealth poses risks, particularly to those in recovery, and highlights the need to provide responsive referrals to callers based on their needs.”

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