Does Tennessee Have A Responsible Gaming Problem?

Posted on February 22, 2021 - Last Updated on June 26, 2024

Tennessee sports betting is in full swing. But for some, this thrilling new form of entertainment comes at a price.

The state’s addiction hotline has reported an increase in gambling-related calls for three months in a row.

Responsible gaming hotline sees influx of monthly calls

The Tennessee Redline is a hotline for those struggling with all types of addiction.

Overall hotline calls increased by 38% in January 2021 compared to January 2020. In that same timeframe, gambling addiction calls grew by a monumental 847%.

This substantial rise in calls from year to year is due in major part to Tennessee’s launch of legal sports betting back in November.

With the convenience of Tennessee’s online-only sports betting market, bettors can now wager without ever having to leave the couch.

Since launch, gambling-related hotline calls have increased month after month.

In January 2020, the Redline received 1,321 total calls. Of those calls, none were related to sports betting.

Twenty-one calls were related to casino and lottery gambling, though it is important to note that the Tennessee Lottery was the only form of legalized gambling available to residents at that time.

January 2021 tells an entirely different story. Out of the 1,829 total Redline calls for the month, 199 were gambling-related.

Ninety-eight of those calls were made requesting sports betting information, while 29 pertained specifically to sports betting addiction.

January 2020January 2021February 1-17, 2021
Total Redline Calls132118291304
Gambling Calls21199259
Gambling Addiction Calls:
Sports Betting02920
Casino Or Lottery Information Calls116427
Sports Betting Information Calls098197

Tennessee sportsbooks are required to include responsible gaming information on all marketing material. This includes TV commercials, radio advertisements, billboards, and more.

Because of this, the hotline is now more accessible than ever.

February calls continue their upward trend

This year’s Super Bowl was the most wagered on event in sports betting history. Consequently, gambling-related hotline calls saw a substantial spike.

February’s calls have already surpassed previous monthly numbers.

Redline and Clearinghouse Coordinator Jackie Rodriguez noted the influx of gambling calls in the days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday.

“Our highest call volume day – for gambling calls – in February has been Feb. 5 with 32 calls coming in that day. Feb. 4 had 25 total calls, Feb. 6 had only 6 calls but Feb. 7 had 26 calls.”

In total, the hotline has already received 20 sports betting addiction calls and 197 sports betting information request calls this month.

While information request calls are significantly higher than past months, good news can be gleaned from those numbers.

Rather than callers connecting because of a recognized addiction, they are reaching out for information before the problem gets out of hand.

Mary Linden-Salter of the Tennessee Redline sees the increase in calls as a promising step in the right direction.

“For that many more people to have recognized a problem this early on, I think, is pretty telling.”

Having the proper resources in place for these individuals is a crucial measure for preventing further problems. Linden-Salter observed:

“Now that it’s legalized, I think it’s given the green light to a whole bunch of people who might not have otherwise tried it and that might be vulnerable to those types of things.”

She says the next step is to help policy makers become better informed about the true impact of sports betting in the Tennessee community.

Only then will the state be able to take a holistic approach to responsible gambling.

Sp0rts betting creates new avenue for addiction

Addiction is certainly not a new struggle for Tennesseans, but the sports betting aspect of it is.

A study conducted between 2017-2018 revealed that 4.9% of adults in Tennessee reported having an alcohol use disorder, and 2.8% of adults disclosed an illicit drug use disorder.

Additionally, 4.5% of Tennessee-based adults reported having serious thoughts of suicide.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only caused those numbers to increase.

With legal sports betting now in the mix, addiction concerns are even more prevalent and pressing. Gambling can be a slippery slope for new bettors and for those already struggling with addiction.

As long as funds are available in an account, a player can wager as much as they want with the push of a button. And in this fast-paced world of sports betting, there are no takebacks.

Bettors can become lost in the thrill of the moment and end up wagering much more than originally intended. Similarly, someone with an addictive personality may become fixated on landing “that next big win”.

The new bettor incentives offered by sportsbooks only fan the flame. Second-chance bets and deposit bonuses make betting all the more more enticing.

Without moderation, problems can arise.

The Tennessee Education Lottery has taken steps with its regulations to help curb potential issues. A portion of sports betting tax revenue, 5%, is allocated toward state-funded responsible gambling resources.

That amount currently sits at over $270,000.

As previously mentioned, the TEL also mandates that all operators display responsible gaming messages on their advertising, as well as have their own responsible gaming policies.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a gambling addiction or would like more information concerning the matter, contact the Tennessee Redline at 800-889-9789.

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Alec Cunningham

As a college athlete, Alec Cunningham played Division II golf at Tusculum University. She graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Professional Writing. She then returned to her love of written word in 2000 after working in the music industry as a concert promoter, tour manager and artist developer. As a journalist, she's covered a variety of topics and currently specializes in Tennessee online sports betting and Virginia casino news. She served as a panelist at this year's All American Sports Betting Summit, discussing the ever-evolving role of women in the gambling industry.

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