HCN News & Notes

DPH Report Shows Uptick in Calls to State’s Problem Gambling Helpline

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) released its FY 2023 Problem Gambling Helpline report, which highlighted an increase in call volume to the line and included initiatives that served more than 2,000 individuals in communities across Massachusetts in prevention efforts.

DPH established the Office of Problem Gambling Services (OPGS) in 2016 to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of gambling, which can take a toll on individuals and communities in Massachusetts. Problem gambling can significantly impact an individual and their family, relationships, social interactions, and employment. It disproportionally impacts people of color and has a high level of comorbidity with substance use and mental-health disorders.

Community-based initiatives funded by OPGS raise awareness about problem gambling and provide access to resources. Campaigns and programs have targeted youth and men of color — two of the groups most likely to experience problem gambling — through community outreach, education through art, small group sessions, presentations, and events. Looking forward, OPGS will continue to target these populations through new initiatives, including youth peer-to-peer mentoring, telehealth services to improve access, and targeted public-awareness campaigns.

“As access to gambling expands in Massachusetts, we remain focused on supporting and promoting prevention, referral, and treatment options to help those with a gambling problem,” Public Health Commissioner Dr. Robert Goldstein said. “The Problem Gambling Helpline is a centerpiece of these efforts. 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.”

From July 2022 through June 2023, the Problem Gambling Helpline saw an increase in overall call volume and referrals from the previous year. The increase is likely the result of improvement in helpline services in coordination with public-awareness campaigns, community efforts to provide individuals and families with education and resources, and sports-wagering advertisements. There is currently no evidence to support that the increase in call volume and referrals is a direct result of an increase in problem gambling in the Commonwealth.

The helpline received 3,050 calls in FY 2023, up from 1,378 calls in FY 2022, for a 121% increase. Sports wagering in Massachusetts launched in casinos on Jan. 31, 2023, while online sports wagering began March 10, 2023. Total call volume for the Problem Gambling Helpline was the highest from February through June 2023, with 2,069 calls, as sports wagering was launched and advertisement of the Problem Gambling Helpline that is required to accompany sports wagering ads increased.