As sports betting grows in NJ, so do calls for help
In July 2018, the first full month for legal gambling on professional and college sports in New Jersey, less than 7% of the calls that came into a statewide compulsive gambling helpline were primarily related to sports betting.
In December 2019, the share of sports betting calls topped 17% for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, which handles the 800-GAMBLER helpline.
Neva Pryor, the Council's executive director, said the hotline received 105 calls in December. Typically the holidays are a slow time of year for the line.
"We're not used to seeing a lot of calls like that," Pryor told New Jersey 101.5. "Usually we get sometimes 20 to 30 calls a month."
The number of calls overall was up 28% compared to last December, Pryor said.
The amount of money legally wagered on sports shot up significantly over the past several months as well, according to state figures. A December 2019 report shows a sports betting handle of more than $557 million in the Garden State, through online and on-site operations.
In December 2018, the handle was a little more than $300 million.
Throughout 2019 in New Jersey, bettors wagered more than $4.5 billion on sports.
Earlier this month, Pryor handled a call from a gentleman who had spent $30,000 on sports betting since it was legalized in June 2018.
"There's people who can do this recreationally, but then there's others that don't," Pryor said.
With the legalization of sports betting, Pryor said more people may be willing to speak up about their problem.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.