A phone number familiar to New Jerseyans, even if they've never had cause to use it, now has a nationwide profile.

A joint release from the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey and the National Council on Problem Gambling on Thursday announced a license agreement to expand the 24/7 1-800-GAMBLER helpline across the country.

The pact is for six years and covers all U.S. states — New Jersey, continuing to be included in that — territories, and Washington D.C.

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In response to an inquiry from New Jersey 101.5, CCGNJ executive director Felicia Grondin said calls to 1-800-GAMBLER increased 19% in 2021 over 2020, and 105% in 2020 over 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic began and in-person betting was shut down for months.

Typically, Grondin said, the number gets 19,000 to 20,000 calls a year, with 20,000 to 40,000 hits per month on the 800GAMBLER.org website.

While there has not been a specific increase in the past several months leading up to the nationwide rollout, Grondin did say the percentage of calls related to problem sports betting has been steadily increasing in recent years as the pastime was granted legality, from just 5% of all calls placed in 2018 to 23% last year.

NCPG said it will continue New Jersey's mission of using 1-800-GAMBLER to connect "problem gamblers and their families to treatment programs, Gamblers Anonymous meetings and other services" by reducing barriers to those resources.

A NCPG modernization project fueled by a 2021 grant from the National Football League will improve call center capabilities and data collection and reporting, Thursday's release said.

For now, the current National Problem Gambling Helpline Network number, 1-800-522-4700, will remain in service as the transition to 1-800-GAMBLER takes place.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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