Exciting news for Kentucky residents and visitors! As the NFL season kicks off this week, sports enthusiasts will now have the opportunity to legally place bets on more than just horse racing. And what’s even better? A portion of the money generated from these sports bets will go towards funding Kentucky’s first-ever program for individuals with gambling problems.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for legalized sports betting five years ago, the majority of states have quickly embraced this new form of gambling. However, funding for problem gambling services has not kept up with the pace of legalization. Thankfully, more states, including Kentucky, are now requiring a percentage of sports wagering revenues to be allocated towards helping those struggling with addiction.
Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, acknowledges that while funding is starting to flow, it is still insufficient in most states. In the past five years alone, legal sports betting operators raked in a staggering $220 billion, generating $3 billion in state and local taxes. In contrast, states spent an average of only 38 cents per capita on problem gambling services in the 2022 fiscal year.
Kentucky’s new program is estimated to receive around $575,000 in its first year. While this is a decent start, there is still a need for more certified gambling counselors to provide adequate coverage across the state. Michael R. Stone, the executive director of the nonprofit Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling, emphasizes the importance of having enough counselors to address the geographic and demographic needs of those seeking help.
The good news is that progress is being made. As of last year, 15 states and the District of Columbia had laws in place to allocate a portion of their sports betting revenues towards problem gambling services. Since then, seven additional states have joined this initiative. Ohio, for example, not only dedicates 2% of tax revenues to a “problem sports gaming fund,” but also requires all sports betting ads to include a phone number for a problem gambling helpline.
It’s crucial to recognize the potential dangers of sports betting, especially with the accessibility and convenience offered by smartphone apps. Linda Graves, the recently retired executive director of the National Association of Administrators for Disordered Gambling Services, highlights the increased risk associated with easy accessibility. However, with the proper funding and support, individuals struggling with gambling addiction can find the help they need.
While some states have unfortunately reduced funding for problem gambling services in recent years, there is hope for change. Kansas, for instance, has historically allocated minimal funds towards this issue. However, the current Kansas budget has set aside over $1 million for problem gambling efforts in response to the rise of sports betting. The state plans to conduct a study on addiction prevalence related to sports betting and utilize the findings to develop a comprehensive public awareness campaign.
Overall, it’s encouraging to see states like Kentucky taking steps to address the potential harms of sports betting and provide support for those in need. As the NFL season begins, let’s remember to enjoy the excitement of the games responsibly and ensure that help is available for anyone who may be struggling with gambling addiction.