Six months after sports betting’s launch in Tennessee, calls to the Tennessee REDLINE, the state-specific hotline for gambling addiction resources, are beginning to level out.
The organization reports a decline in calls across multiple categories.
Is this a normal trend, or is something in the market to blame?
Tennessee gambling addiction calls decrease
Before sports betting’s launch in November, the Tennessee Lottery existed as the state’s only legal form of gambling.
Once Tennessee online sports betting apps joined the scene, responsible gaming calls started to rise.
February was a record-high month for the Tennessee REDLINE, which answered 366 gambling-related calls. Sports betting information calls also rose that month, peaking at 272.
Since then, calls have gradually declined each month.
In February, gambling-related hotline calls averaged almost 13 per day. Calls to the hotline then decreased in March, falling to less than seven calls per day. The decline continued in April at around six calls per day and again in May, when gambling-related calls dropped to less than five per day.
Total gambling calls fell to 140 in May, with 81 of those being requests for sports betting addiction information. Calls for sports betting addiction treatment, on the other hand, rose to 11 during the month, but still represented a 50% decline from February.
|January 2021||February 2021||March 2021||April 2021||May 2021|
|Total REDLINE Calls||1829||1919||1861||1848||1913|
|Gambling Addiction Calls:|
|Casino Or Lottery Information Calls||64||51||34||30||38|
|Sports Betting Information Calls||98||272||138||126||81|
Some have a hunch as to why sports betting continues to grow, but calls to resource centers steadily decline.
Is confusing marketing material to blame?
While the gradual decline in calls to Tennessee REDLINE is curious, there may be a simple answer to the issue. It could all come down to sportsbooks’ marketing material.
State law requires sportsbooks to display certain responsible gaming information on all advertisements. This includes a gambling addiction hotline number.
Three different hotline numbers appear on all Tennessee sportsbook promotional assets- the Tennessee REDLINE’s number, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) hotline (1-800-522-4700) and 1-800-GAMBLER.
Mary Linden-Salter is the executive director of the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and Other Addiction Services (TAADAS), the program that operates the Tennessee REDLINE.
She suggests that these low numbers are perhaps somewhat deceptive. Rather than calls actually being low, outreach is being divided between national hotlines as well as the state-specific Tennessee REDLINE.
While the NCPG is a national hotline, its operators automatically redirect regional calls to the Tennessee REDLINE.
1-800-GAMBLER, on the other hand, does not.
Additionally, since many sportsbooks operate in multiple states, advertisements often also include hotline numbers for other jurisdictions. With so many numbers thrown into one ad, it can be confusing to gamblers seeking help on which one to call.
As sports betting continues to increase in popularity, appropriate Tennessee responsible gaming resources are paramount to the market’s continued success.
But where do the funds for these resources come from?
Sports betting taxes fund state-wide initiatives
During its first six months of legal sports betting in Tennessee, bettors wagered almost $1.1 billion. The state’s chunk of that handle amounts to $18.4 million in state privilege tax, which is a 20% take on each operator’s adjusted gross revenue.
Of this amount, 80% goes to the Tennessee Education Lottery’s Lottery For Education account to fund scholarships and grant programs. Local governments receive 15% of that amount for road and infrastructure projects.
The remaining 5% goes to statewide gambling addiction treatment, which has equated to roughly $920,000 in the first six months.
That funding won’t come right away though. It could be another year before the state disperses financing.
Linden-Salter’s assumption is that funding will be primarily focused on a handful of clinics located throughout Tennessee.
“I suspect that they will start to talk to providers about programs in FY 22 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) and implement new funding during the year, but no later than July 1 , 2022.”
These clinics would provide assistance for those dealing with gambling addiction. Tennessee’s call centers will also require a portion of that funding.
Tennessee REDLINE needs more hotline operators
Tennessee’s online-only market has become a model for what is possible in other jurisdictions.
Only three other states, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois, have accumulated more sports betting tax since November.
Those other three states, however, already offer well-established gambling addiction resources.
Linden-Salter says accessibility to treatment is paramount as Tennessee’s sports betting market continues to grow.
Although the full impact of the funding won’t be realized until sometime next year, Tennessee is already beginning to recognize this increasing need for supplemental resources.
State officials are working with the TAADAS to approve necessary personnel additions. This includes bringing on more hotline specialists to answer calls.
Linden-Salter says she the program has received a grant amendment that covers additional expenses through the end of the fiscal year. She has also submitted a budget to justify additional expenses during the next fiscal year, which she expects to be awarded.
For those in need of help or information, the Tennessee REDLINE hotline is available 24/7 by calling or texting 1-800-889-9789.