Increased Kentucky Sports Betting Results in Demand for Therapists

Sports Betting in Kentucky Raises Concerns Amidst Surge in Addiction

Posted on: October 16, 2023, 10:25 AM | Last updated on: October 16, 2023, 10:25 AM

The legalization of retail and online sports betting in Kentucky has raised concerns among responsible gaming advocates. With the state’s first major liberalization of gaming since the authorization of the Kentucky Lottery in 1989, addiction specialists are calling for an increase in counselors and therapists to address the expected surge in problem gamblers seeking treatment.

Kentucky sports betting problem gambling
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear poses for a photo after placing a $20 bet at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, on Sept. 7, 2023. Problem gambling experts in the state say they need more counselors and therapists trained in combatting betting addiction. (Image: AP)

Dr. RonSonlyn Clark, president of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling, expressed the need for additional professionals trained in addiction treatment services. With the convenience and accessibility of online gambling, Clark emphasized the urgency to identify and provide quality resources for individuals struggling with gambling addiction.

“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 stated. “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.”

Currently, Kentucky only has five certified compulsive gambling counselors, a number that Clark believes is insufficient to handle the expected increase in individuals seeking assistance.

Rising Problem Gaming Rates

According to Clark, the expansion of gaming in Kentucky will result in more residents seeking help for problem gambling. Statistics from the National Council on Problem Gambling indicate that 1-2% of individuals engaged in gambling activities may require treatment, leading to a rise in calls to the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline.

As online sportsbook apps went live in Kentucky, the gambling resource hotline experienced an increase in calls. In addition to retail sportsbooks, each horse racetrack can partner with up to three third-party mobile sportsbooks, contributing to the accessibility of gambling in the state.

Notable online sportsbooks operating in Kentucky include Caesars Sportsbook, FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, bet365, Barstool, and Fanatics. Barstool is expected to transition to ESPN Bet, while Circa plans to launch its online sportsbook later this year.

Clark highlighted the unique challenges of addressing gambling addiction compared to substance abuse. Unlike drug addiction, there is no definitive screening process to detect involvement in gambling activities.

“In substance abuse, we can test for specific drugs, but there’s no screen to tell if someone’s been playing poker or betting on a sports app,” Clark explained. The intermittent positive experiences and potential wins associated with gambling can make it difficult to limit or terminate participation in the behavior.

According to Clark, Kentucky has been grappling with high addiction rates for years, with the opioid epidemic significantly impacting the state. In 2021, Kentucky reported the third-highest fatal overdose death rate in the US, emphasizing the urgent need for addiction treatment and resources.

As Kentucky expands its gaming options, it must also prioritize addressing the challenges of problem gambling to protect its residents.

In 2021, a total of 2,381 individuals died in Kentucky due to overdose, underscoring the severity of the addiction crisis in the state.

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