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Massachusetts gambling helpline sees increase in calls; many from people wanting tech support for sports betting apps – The Boston Globe

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The state’s problem gambling hotline has seen an uptick in calls recently, including lots of calls from people looking for tech support for sports betting apps on their mobile phones, public health officials said.

From July 2022 through June 2023, the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline’s call volume increased by 121 percent from the previous year, a third of which included “non-helpline calls from those looking for technical assistance for their sports wagering mobile platforms,” according to a new report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released Wednesday.

“The total call volume was the highest from February through June 2023 (2,069 calls), potentially due to the launch of sports wagering in Massachusetts. Of the 2,069 calls in that time, 1,043 were non-helpline calls. In general, non-helpline calls were callers looking for technical support for their sports wagering mobile applications and platforms,” the report states. “These types of calls may be driven by the increase in sports wagering advertisements, which promote the helpline.”

Sports wagering in Massachusetts launched in casinos on Jan. 31, 2023, and online sports wagering began on March 10, 2023, officials noted in the report.

“The driving force behind the increase in call volume and referrals may be the result of improvement in helpline services combined with the increased visibility of the helpline through public awareness campaigns, community efforts to provide individuals and families with education and resources, and sports wagering advertisements,” the report states. “It is important to note that there is no supporting evidence that the increase in call volume and referrals is a direct result of an increase in problem gambling in the Commonwealth.”

According to the report, the helpline received 3,050 calls in fiscal year 2023, up from 1,378 calls in fiscal year 2022; calls from individuals in recovery increased by 230 percent, from 27 in fiscal 2022 to 89 in fiscal 2023; calls from individuals seeking help increased from 301 in fiscal year 2022 to 380 in fiscal 2023; and calls from loved ones went up from 106 in fiscal 2022 to 148 in fiscal 2023.

The Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline has seen an increase in calls.Massachusetts Department of Public Health
The Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline has seen an increase in calls.Massachusetts Department of Public Health

As access to gambling expands, Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein said officials are focusing on supporting prevention, referral and treatment options to help people with gambling problems.

“The Problem Gambling Helpline is a centerpiece of these efforts,” Goldstein said in a statement. “We are committed to working with our state and community partners to connect Commonwealth residents to appropriate resources so that people get the care they need.”

Victor Ortiz, director of the Office of Problem Gambling Services, said his office is committed to monitoring the impact that sports wagering has on individuals, families, and communities throughout the state.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

To reach the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline, call 800-327-5050. For more information, visit gamblinghelplinema.org.


Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.

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