Kentucky Sports Betting Prompts Need for More Problem Gambling Therapists
Posted on: October 16, 2023, 10:25h.
Last updated on: October 16, 2023, 10:43h.
Retail and online sports betting in Kentucky began last month at the state’s brick-and-mortar horse racetracks and via internet sportsbook platforms. The expansion of gambling, the state’s first major liberalization of gaming since the Kentucky Lottery was authorized in 1989, is posing concerns among responsible gaming advocates.
A little more than a month into Kentucky’s legal sports betting market, addiction specialists say the Bluegrass State needs to attract more counselors and therapists to respond to the expected increase of problem gamblers seeking treatment. Speaking with Spectrum News, Dr. RonSonlyn Clark, president of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling and a longtime substance abuse expert, said Kentucky needs more professionals trained in addiction treatment services.
Gambling is no longer going to an arena or an event or a casino. You can gamble from the comfort of your home in your pajamas 24/7 every day of the year,” Clark said. “We are here to treat the individual that has a problem with gambling, and we want to identify them and provide them quality resources for treatment activities.”
Clark said the council’s current roster of five certified compulsive gambling counselors is inadequate for what she believes will be an influx in consumers seeking assistance.
Rising Problem Gaming Rates
Clark believes more gaming will lead to more Kentuckians seeking problem gambling help.
“One to 2% of those folks, per statistics, are going to need to have some treatment,” Clark said, citing research figures from the National Council on Problem Gambling. “We’re beginning to see more calls to the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline.”
Clark explained that Kentucky’s gambling resource hotline experienced an uptick in calls on the same day that the online sportsbook apps went live. Along with retail sportsbooks, each horse racetrack can partner with up to three third-party mobile sportsbooks.
Kentucky’s online sportsbooks that are up and running include Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, bet365, Barstool, and Fanatics. Barstool will eventually transition to ESPN Bet. Circa is expected to launch its online sportsbook before the end of the year.
Clark said dealing with gambling addiction is at times more difficult than dealing with a drug addict or alcoholic.
In substance abuse, we can take somebody in, give them a urine drug screen and we can tell that they’ve been using methamphetamine or opiates or cocaine. There’s no screen to tell if someone’s been playing poker or betting on a sports app,” she explained.
Clark said unlike drug addicts where the drug continuously negatively impacts their life, a problem gambler can still experience good days when they win. That only complicates the task of limiting or terminating their participation.
“This is the one area of behavioral addictions that we see that — even at your lowest — you can still have some success,” Clark stated.
Kentucky Addiction Rates
Kentucky has been battling high addiction rates for many years, and the opioid epidemic has greatly impacted the state.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky in 2021 reported the third-highest fatal overdose death rate in the US. Kentucky’s overdose death rate of nearly 56 residents per 100K people trailed only West Virginia at almost 91 and Tennessee at nearly 57.
A total of 2,381 people died as a result of an overdose in Kentucky in 2021, the most recently reported year.
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