Florida’s Problem Gambling Helpline See’s Big Decline in Contacts as Funding Cuts Impact Outreach in 2011-2012

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The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling’s (FCCG’s) HelpLine 1-888-ADMIT-IT, saw a 32% drop in contacts for those seeking help with a gambling problem, marking the first year ever that contacts have decreased.

We have for the first time in history seen not just a decrease, but a considerable decrease in those seeking help, at the same time when gambling in Florida continues to increase and revenues from gambling have also increased even in a bad economy

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling’s (FCCG’s) HelpLine 1-888-ADMIT-IT, saw a 32% drop in contacts for those seeking help with a gambling problem, marking the first year ever that contacts have decreased. The Florida Lottery has been a primary funding source of the HelpLine and statewide awareness, education, and prevention for the past decade up until last year when funding of the HelpLine ceased. At the same time, the Lottery reported fiscal year sales of $4.45 billion, the highest in history in Florida. In addition, Florida’s slot revenues from licensed racino’s also substantially increased, with roughly an $8.5 million bump over 2010-2011, while at the same time funding for problem gambling programing was reduced almost 40% from the previous year’s funding of $690,000.

According to Pat Fowler, FCCG Executive Director, "We've always known that the number of help contacts is directly tied to the level of public access to the HelpLine and information on available resources. To see such a drop in those seeking help over the past year is very concerning, since this could reflect thousands of Floridians who did not seek help simply due to a lack of awareness that help even existed. Equally alarming are data from HelpLine callers indicating higher gambling debt, a lower income, and a greater risk of suicide in the past year.”

Noteworthy statistics reported by callers in year 2011-2012 included:

  •     Suicide – Despite the decrease in contacts in fiscal year 2011/2012 from last year, the severity of the content of the calls worsened as shown by the 6% increase in those who claimed the gambler had suicidal ideations or suicidal attempts (22% up from 16% last year).
  •     Debt - The average amount of debt owed due to gambling increased by $20,000 over last fiscal year ($42,471 in 10/11 to $62,513 in 11/12)
  •     Income - More than one third (36%) of the gamblers cited an income range of $15,000 to $35,000, with 15% earning less than $15,000, which for most families barring the number of children in the household is below poverty level in Florida.
  •     Primary Gambling Problem – The most frequently cited primary gambling problem was:

                             Slots – 50%     Cards – 30%     Lottery – 11%

When looking at the primary gambling choices within different lottery games, scratch-off tickets were preferred 88% of the time. With card games, Poker and Texas hold ‘em were favored 58% over other card games.

(In addition, Lottery games were the number one secondary gambling problem as stated by 52% of callers)

  •     Internet Sweepstakes Centers - Once again the FCCG saw an increase in contacts regarding Internet Sweepstakes Centers. In fiscal year 2010/2011 the FCCG received 122 contacts from callers citing Internet Sweepstakes Centers as their primary gambling location, compared to the 168 received in 2011/2012 which reflects a 38% overall increase. With state estimates of well over 1,000 of these establishments currently in existence, the FCCG is confident these calls will continue to rise until there is a clear regulation overseeing them to ensure that responsible gaming programs are implemented.
  •     Most callers reside in South Florida (47%), which is a 5% increase in contacts from this region over last year, and 57% indicate they gamble at land based facilities.

“When we analyze the HelpLine calls for the past year as compared to previous years, it is difficult to believe that over the past decade as awareness, education, and prevention programs increased in Florida, the numbers of those seeking help for a gambling problem would not increase as well. We have for the first time in history seen not just a decrease, but a considerable decrease in those seeking help, at the same time when gambling in Florida continues to increase and revenues from gambling have also increased even in a bad economy”, says Fowler.

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