More opportunities: Is mobile sports betting fueling gambling addiction among young adults?

STATEN ISLAND, NY Accessibility to legal mobile sports betting is fueling gambling addiction among a growing population of young gamblers, members of Staten Island’s recovering gaming community warn.

A big problem is looming, they say, despite New York State regulations and controls designed to promote responsible gambling and support for gambling addiction.

And several elected officials from both parties in Staten Island are demanding further analysis of the problems caused by the legalization of mobile gaming in January 2022., and a reassessment of priorities by the state.

Members of Gamblers Anonymous (GA), an international association of compulsive gamblers, said they have recently seen big changes in the demographics of support groups: Younger people losing more money faster than ever before.

It’s a question of access, of opportunity and of some of the characteristics that influence addictions, said Mark B., a GA member since 1972, whose life became unmanageable due to his betting on poker games and horse racing long before gambling. of casino. it was even legal in New York and New Jersey. The types of gambling have changed, but the problems are the same and now more magnified. People have more opportunities and legality erases stigma.

Phone gaming begins as innocent fun for multitudes of young adults, who have grown up in a cloud of cell phone and video game distraction. Gambling is just another distraction for them,’ said another recovering gambler, highlighting that the distraction can quickly become obscure and attract them, given its 24-hour accessibility.

Known as a hidden addiction because there are no blood tests or other telltale physical signs, gambling addiction typically only emerges after life-altering consequences such as destroyed relationships, insurmountable debt, and even criminal activity resulting from the desperation and dishonesty required to feed gambling addiction.

On January 7, 2023, the day before the first anniversary of legal mobile sports betting for those over 21 in New York State, more than 3.8 million unique player accounts had been created on gaming apps like FanDuel, DraftKings and Caesars Sportsbook, with people making more than 1.2 billion transactions, according to GeoComply, a software company used by the nine legal sports phone apps in the state to enforce geolocation requirements.

Thriving Industry

The thriving new industry, regulated by the New York State Gaming Commission, is heavily taxed. The result is very profitable for New York State, and 95% of it is used for educational purposes, according to Governor Kathy Hochul’s office and a statement from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

However, DiNapoli this month called on the state Gaming Commission and the Office of Addiction Services and Support (OASAS) to take a closer look at gambling problems triggered by a new era in which new forms of gambling are no longer linked to a destiny.

The commission reported an increase in calls to its HOPEline, from 1,899 calls in 2001, to 2,402 in 2022. From January to August 2023, HOPEline received 1,357 calls.

And while some see the increase as a sign of a growing problem, Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said it signifies a level of success on the commission’s part. We are proud to make an effort to at least make this HOPEline available so that people can contact it if they feel the need,” he said during a press conference held in March.

The commission played a role in the increase in HOPEline calls, he said, since every sports betting advertisement is required by regulation to include messages about problem gambling and the HOPEline number, Williams testified before the New York Senate and Assembly during a January 2023 session joint public hearing on the impact of mobile sports betting in the state.


The $16 billion in mobile sports wagered in the first year generated more than $709 million in tax revenue. Of this total, US$6 million will go towards gambling education and treatment and US$5 million will go towards sports programs for underprivileged youth. The remaining funds will go toward education aid, according to an announcement earlier this year by Hochul.

But funding for gambling education needs to increase if the state wants to stay ahead of the wave of addiction it’s about to hit, said Mark B.

The addiction trend is manifesting itself mainly among those in their 20s and 30s, he said, drawn to gaming apps that lure them with eye-catching logos, tempting advertising and sometimes $200, $300 or even $200. $500 in credit if they place their first bet. The ability to place bets on more than 20 sports only broadens the appeal, he said.

When I entered GA, I was 28 years old and the youngest person in the room, said Bruce W., a longtime compulsive gambler in recovery who has helped gambling addicts at local GA meetings for decades. Due to the ability for people to gamble with their smartphones, gambling has increased exponentially across the country. At city (New York) meetings, 60 to 70 percent of the people who arrive are in their 20s and 30s.

And those are just the people seeking treatment for their addiction, he said.


Some Staten Island public officials, when contacted by the Advance/, expressed concern about the possible threat the new gambling facility could pose to young adults.

Rep. Sam Pirozzolo (R-Mid-Island) criticized the state’s dependence on our citizens’ addiction to generate revenue.

It is a validation of our leaders’ failure to guide our state responsibly,” Pirozzolo said.

Assemblymember Michael Tannousis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn) and New York State Assembly Assistant Majority Leader Charles Fall (D-North Shore) offered similar criticisms.

While the revenue generated is substantial, we must ask ourselves at what cost?’, Fall said. If our future generation is at risk, then we must reevaluate our priorities.

Tannousis said the growing number of gambling addicts as a result of online gambling is a serious concern for our community, especially as it relates to our youth. But, as often happens, our state legislature rushes to pass legislation that it believes would bring substantial funds to our state, without putting up barriers to avoid unintended consequences,’ he said.


Funding earmarked for gambling education is a good start, but it’s not enough considering the revenue the state is receiving, Mark B. said, noting that $6 million is a fraction of the $16 billion wagered.

It’s never been easier to place a casino or sports bet, he said. And today, bets can be placed on much more than just the outcome of the game. They can be placed during games, on player performance, or on mid-game scores. This can lead to players continuing to bet throughout the game to make up for losses on previous plays.

All they have to do is press a button, keep pressing a button, and in one game you can lose thousands of dollars, he said. When you’re not touching the money… it just doesn’t feel real.

That was the case for Derek M., a 25-year-old GA member, who said he was more than $100,000 in gambling debt at age 20, with no significant source of income.

At age 23, he spent 18 hours a day placing multiple bets of more than $1,000 each on his phone before his family took him to his first GA meeting. He borrowed money from friends and family and maxed out several credit cards to feed his addiction, he said, losing friends and destroying relationships in the process.

The legality of mobile gaming attracts a wider and more accepting clientele, he said, much wider than the one he started out with in college, betting at bookmakers and using football spreadsheets, which only allowed him to select the winner of football games of the week.


Now it’s something that’s talked about openly, he said. It’s a normal thing and everyone is expected to do it. Telephone applications make it easier for young people to play privately, as nowadays it is common to spend hours every day on the cell phone, he said.

I could sit on the couch, watch a movie and lose $60,000, and no one would know, he said.

Numbers are increasing at the five in-person GA meetings held weekly on Staten Island, according to Mark B., as they always do when new gaming opportunities become available.

But now, he said, almost all the new people are young sports bettors.

The New York State Gaming Commission requires the nine legal mobile app operators to have programs in place to prevent underage gambling, enforce spending limits and share information about gambling risks and signs of problem gambling, Williams testified. in January.

However, restrictions such as game limits are easily circumvented, players say, by creating fake accounts under different names. It is not uncommon for gamers to have multiple accounts on each legal gaming app. It’s also not difficult for minors to play the same way, they said, urging parents to keep an eye on what their teens are doing on their phones.

Gaming app operators are also required to place problem gambling assistance messages, with specific size requirements, in all advertisements.

In New York state, OASAS, the agency charged with providing gambling addiction education and support, continues to work with the New York Council on Problem Gaming and the state commission to monitor gambling trends and expand services, it said. a spokesperson. The programs are able to respond quickly to any increase in demand for services, the spokesperson said.


Regional Gambling Resource Centers, including the University of Richmond Medical Center, the Gambling Resource Center, and the South Beach Addiction Treatment Center, are funded by OASAS.

The New York State HOPEline, 877-846-7369, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and will connect anyone in need of support services in their community.

To contact the Gamblers Anonymous helpline, call 855-222-5542. To contact Gam-Anon, a support group for family and friends of compulsive gamblers, call 718-352-1671.

An open Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon meeting will be held on Saturday, October 14th at 7pm at Helmsley Hall, across the street from St. Andrew’s Church, 4 Arthur Kill Rd., Richmond. The event is open to anyone who thinks they or someone they care about may be addicted to gambling. No registration is required. Gates open at 6:15 pm

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