THE MALDEN ADVOCATE–Friday, May 17, 2024 Page 15 SPORTS WAGERING IS ‘ON FIRE’ in MASS.: State has brought in double the expected new tax revenue – over $100 million – since January 2023 Another impact of sports gaming: Calls to Mass. DPH Problem Gambling Helpline double in one year By Steve Freker W hen the proposal was first made, two results were forecast by all the experts. Both predictions regarding legalized sports wagering in Massachusetts have come to light since the first bet was placed in January 2023. Actually, both forecasts have come in double fashion. Before legalized sports gambling began in Massachusetts in January 2023, experts predicted an average addition of some $60 million in tax revenue. All expectations have been left in the dust by the wildly popular enterprise in Massachusetts in its first year. In the year that’s passed since the Bay State began to allow gambling on professional and some college sports, more than $6.2 billion has been spent on sports wagering by over 1.6 million gamblers, generating more than half a billion in revenue for operators, according to a new report presented by Mass. Gaming Commission staff this week. In addition, including straight tax take plus licensing revenue, Massachusetts has received $127.7 million in additional tax funds since January 2023, from sports wagering alone. On the biggest sports betting day ever each year, Massachusetts came through with flying colors. In one day alone, this year’s Super Bowl saw more than 3.3 million bets made, generated $9 million in wagers and sent $1.8 million to the Treasury’s coffers. Locally, Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett has been a hub of sports betting in Greater Boston and beyond, with millions wagered both onsite and previously, on its former moSPORTS BETTING ON FIRE: Massachusetts has seen $6.2 billion in sports wagering with 3.3 million bets placed by 1.6 million bettors in the past year. bile App, WynnBet. Encore, at the first of the year, discontinued the mobile betting operation. There are many other options for Mass. sports bettors, including DraftKings, FanDuel and many others. On another front, however, one could call it a legalized sports gambling “Catch 22”. While Massachusetts reaped over $100 million in new tax revenue from the onset of sports wagering, programs put in place by the Mass. Gaming Commission to assist those who are negatively impacted by the allure of sports wagering and other gambling increased over the past year as well. This still should not be considered a negative result, as it shows the programs are working as hoped for, with more people making use and taking advantage of them. In fact, in another report released recently, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) released the Fiscal Year 2023 Problem Gambling Helpline report, which highlighted an increase in call volume to the line and included initiatives that served more than 2,000 individuals in communities across Massachusetts in prevention efforts. According to these figures, that represents nearly double the calls and also the individuals assisted in the past year from Mass. cities and towns. In addition, over 38,000 people have made use of the state’s mandated Responsible Gaming programs offered by the various sports book operators, and hundreds of people have voluntarily identified themselves as a problem gambler and excluded themselves from the market, according to the Mass. Gaming Commission report. This also represents an increase over the past year, as in last year’s report, about 26,000 individuals had made use of the program in 2022. DPH established the Office of Problem Gambling Services (OPGS) in 2016 to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of gambling, which can take a toll on individuals and communities in Massachusetts. “Problem gambling can significantly impact an individual and their family, relationships, social interactions, and employment. It disproportionally impacts people of color and has a high level of comorbidity with substance use and mental health disorders,” according to a DPH press release. Community-based initiatives funded by OPGS raise awareness about problem gambling and provide access to resources. Campaigns and programs have targeted youth and men of color – two of the groups most likely to experience problem gambling – through community outreach, education through art, small group sessions, presentations and events. Looking forward, OPGS will continue to target these populations through new initiatives, including youth peer-to-peer mentoring, telehealth services to improve access, and targeted public awareness campaigns. “As access to gambling expands in Massachusetts, we remain focused on supporting and promoting prevention, referral, and treatment options to help those with a gambling problem,” said Public Health Commissioner Robert Goldstein, MD, PhD., referencing the advent of sports wagering. “The Problem Gambling Helpline is a centerpiece of these efforts. We are committed to working with our state and community partners to connect Commonwealth residents to appropriate resources so that people get the care they need.” From July 2022 through June 2023, the Problem Gambling Helpline saw an increase in overall call volume and referrals from the previous year. The helpline received 3,050 calls in Fiscal Year 2023, up from 1,378 calls in Fiscal Year 2022 for a 121 percent increase. Calls from those seeking support and information increased by 41 percent to 636, and calls resulting in referrals specifically for outpatient treatment increased by 96 percent – from 185 to 362. Of the 636 callers, 73 reported sports betting as their reason for seeking assistance – a 1,117 percent increase from FY22, when only six callers referred to treatment reported sports betting as their main concern. Sports wagering in Massachusetts launched in casinos January 31, 2023; online sports wagering began March 10, 2023. To contact the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline, call 800-327-5050. For more information, visit the Massachusetts Problem Gambling Helpline website. For Advertising with Results, call The Advocate Newspapers at 617-387-2200 or Info@advocatenews.net

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