NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With March Madness underway, thousands of people are contributing to the already booming business of sports betting.
Nearly $4 billion in wagers are being made in Tennessee, raising a question: what’s being done to address problem gambling in the state?
The Gambling Clinic has a multi-million dollar contract with the University of Memphis to provide resources for residents impacted by gambling addition.
The annual funding is currently about $1.2 million, but it is projected to increase to approximately $2.3 million next year based on increased revenue from gambling.
In 2022, the amount wagered in sports betting went up by 41% from 2021.
The director of The Gambling Clinic, Dr. James Whelan, said the audience for sports betting has evolved and is reaching more people because of the ease of access. Now, it’s as simple as pressing a few buttons on your phone.
“People think of sports betting as maybe different from every other form of gambling and what’s different is how people wager, the types of bet they make, but the truth is, when people are getting themselves in trouble, whether or not they do that through lottery tickets, through casino play, through sports wagering, is not all that different,” Whelan explained.
Whelan warned gambling can not only impact finances, but also relationships and stress levels.
Studies show only 44% of people with a gambling problem recognize they have one. In addition, only one in 10 gamblers will reach out for help.
“Our general awareness, as a culture, of what the problem is is amazingly low. Lots of pushback on the idea that you have an addiction without an actual substance, so people tend to believe that it’s an issue of willpower, or ‘get off your butt and fix it,’ and we don’t think that same thing about people who are smoking cigarettes or have difficulties with alcohol,” he said.
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Whelan said he has a vision of clinics coming to Eastern and Middle Tennessee, connected by a telehealth website.
Those facing a gambling addiction, needing treatment, or seeking recovery resources can visit The Gambling Clinic’s website. You can also reach out to the Tennessee REDLINE by calling or texting 800-889-9789.