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Press Release  DPH report shows uptick in calls to state’s problem gambling helpline

Advertising for helpline services increased with launch of online sports betting; Office of Problem Gambling Services connecting people with resources and support
For immediate release:
  • Department of Public Health

Media Contact   for DPH report shows uptick in calls to state’s problem gambling helpline

Omar Cabrera, Manager of Ethnic Media and Community Outreach

Boston — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) today released the Fiscal Year 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,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD. “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 Fiscal Year 2023, up from 1,378 calls in Fiscal Year 2022 for a 121 percent increase.  Calls from those seeking support and information increased by 41 percent to 636 and calls resulting in referrals specifically for outpatient treatment increased by 96 percent – to 185 from 362.

Of the 636 callers, 73 reported sports betting as their reason for seeking assistance – a 1,117 percent increase from FY22, when only six callers referred to treatment reported sports betting as their main concern. 

Sports wagering in Massachusetts launched in casinos January 31, 2023; 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.

The report also found:

  • Calls from individuals seeking help increased to 380 in FY23 from 301 in FY22, while calls from loved ones of those with a gambling problem increased to 148 in FY23 from 106 in FY22.
  • Calls from individuals in recovery increased to 89 in FY23, compared to 27 in FY22, an increase of 230 percent.
  • Referrals by gambling type for casinos increased to 170 in FY23 from 45 in FY22, an increase of 278 percent.
  • Male callers increased by 56 percent to 500 in FY23 from 321 in FY22 while the number of female callers remained about the same – 137 in FY23 compared to 131 in FY22.
  • Calls seeking referrals for treatment increased across all age groups in FY23. Those 30-to–39-years-old represented a 293 percent increase – to 169 in FY23 from 43 in FY22.
  • Referral calls increased across all regions. The state’s Northeast region had the largest increase of 62 percent – to 123 in FY23 from 76 in FY22.

“The Problem Gambling Helpline provides an important connection between those who are experiencing problem gambling — including sports betting — and services that can help,” said Victor Ortiz, Director of the Office of Problem Gambling Services. “Expanded access to gambling in the Commonwealth poses risks, particularly to those in recovery, and highlights the need to provide responsive referrals to callers based on their needs. The OPGS is committed to monitoring the ongoing impacts of sports wagering and expanded access to gambling on individuals, families, and communities in the Commonwealth.”

To contact the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline, call (800) 327-5050. For more information, visit the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline website


Media Contact   for DPH report shows uptick in calls to state’s problem gambling helpline

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