From MN DHS: As Sports Betting Goes Mainstream, So Must Problem Gambling Awareness

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If you watched football this past season, you’re likely aware of the growing presence of sports betting culture. Pre-game segments where the hosts give gambling tips. Point spreads displayed next to the score. Advertisements for online sportsbooks during every commercial break.

Three years after the Supreme Court ruled that states could allow legal sports betting, the amount of money annually wagered on sports quadrupled in the U.S., according to USA Today.

For some, betting on sports is an occasional, fun activity. For others, it’s an addiction that leads to feelings of despair, isolation and hopelessness. Problem gambling impacts individuals, families and communities through unemployment, loss of housing, and more. And the effects of a gambling disorder are not only economic – it can lead to damaged relationships and high rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide.

Sports betting is not legal in Minnesota, but that may change. And even if it remains illegal, that doesn’t make us immune to the cultural impact of sports betting. We need to be prepared.

First, we must increase awareness of the consequences of problem gambling – and we need to start this education at a young age. As sports betting becomes more mainstream, the behavior becomes normalized for millions of children who are at home watching sports. Young adults are already at higher risk of developing a gambling disorder, and we know that they are a target demographic for sports betting. We must do more to ensure that they can recognize signs of problem gambling. The Minnesota Department of Human Services has a youth-focused website, justaskmn.org, that helps teach young people about problem gambling.

Also, we must increase our capacity to serve people with gambling disorders. Quite simply, Minnesota will need more providers who offer gambling disorder treatment and recovery services in the years ahead. In Minnesota, there are currently 16 providers offering gambling treatment throughout the state. Right now, DHS is offering scholarship reimbursements for training of qualified clinicians who wish to become a problem gambling treatment service provider. Scholarships cover up to $1,197 of training costs.

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Perhaps most importantly in the short-term, we need people to know where to go for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with a sports betting problem – or with problem gambling in any form – you can call a free, confidential helpline at 1-800-333-HOPE, or text HOPE to 61222. DHS funds this 24/7 helpline, which guides individuals to available problem gambling support and resources in their community. People can also visit GetGamblingHelp.com, which includes resources and a link to state-approved treatment providers.

People can and do recover from gambling disorders. We will continue to work with partners to ensure Minnesota has the capacity and resources to treat everyone in need. Together, we can reduce the impacts of problem gambling and help families heal.


Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa is assistant commissioner of the Community Supports Administration and acting director of the Behavioral Health Division at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

Last Updated on March 8, 2022

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