Legal sports betting fuels fears of gambling addiction

Posted: Updated:

While many New Jersey residents celebrate the passing of a bill allowing sports wagering in the Garden State, the expansion is fueling fears of gambling addiction.

The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey says that 6.3 percent of the state’s population has a gambling problem – twice the national average. They say that this is likely due to the availability of gambling, such as horse racetracks and the casinos in Atlantic City.

The council says that 10 percent of calls made to their helplines are for sports betting addiction, and this was even before the practice was legal in the state.

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“At the council we are neither for, nor against gambling.  So, it's not that I'm against sports betting,” says executive director Neva Pryor. “I'm just fearful of what will come along with it."

Pryor says that a lot of the concern comes from how much easier and more available sports wagering will be in the state, both online and in person.

“There are many others waiting in the wings, and one of my concerns is that old racetracks can now become sports betting venues,” she says. “I actually hear the desperation in some people’s voices when they call here.  Men, grown men crying because they can't stop."

Pryor says that the state must dedicate some revenue from sports betting to treatment for gambling addiction. She says the council needs more funding to so that they can continue to help as the need to combat gambling addiction grows.

“I want to make it crystal clear that this is a treatable disorder and there is support, treatment and help,” Pryor says.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed the sports betting bill Monday after it was passed unanimously in the state Legislature last week. The bill comes after New Jersey won a case in the U.S. Supreme Court to allow the practice.

More information about the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey can be found at their website or by calling 1-800-GAMBLER.

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