Tennessee began regulated sports betting on Nov. 1, and so far so good for the industry.
The industry, as well as regulators with the Tennessee Education Lottery, are well aware that problem gambling isn’t uncommon, though a minority of players will engage in problem or at-risk betting.
The Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & other Addiction Services is one group that helps Tennesseans with various forms of addiction, including gambling. Prior to sports betting, the only legal wagering business in the state belonged to the lottery.
Mary-Linden Salter, the association’s executive director, told TN Bets that there has been an uptick in gambling-related calls to the group’s Tennessee Redline, which serves the Nashville area but also fields calls from people all over the state. However, overall numbers remain low.
Between Oct. 1 and Thursday, the group’s Nashville addiction hotline received only a handful of calls for problem gambling referrals related to sports betting specifically. It’s worth noting that people have called the hotline for sports betting well before the state launched the sports betting apps. There was at least one call for a sports betting addiction referral in October 2019, according to Salter.
While referrals have seen a small uptick, Salter pointed out that the Redline has seen a larger increase in people looking to simply gather information. Sports betting is still very new to Tennessee, which isn’t home to any other form of casino-style gambling.
“We’ve also received a marked increase in the number of callers just requesting information,” Salter said. “In October 2019 there were 11 information requests related to gambling addiction. In October 2020 there were 17, and as of Nov. 9 we’d gotten 43.”
The introduction of sportsbooks appears to have had an immediate impact on the hotline. Salter cautioned that so far the numbers are not very significant. “It’s good to remember that these numbers are relatively small, so increases or decreases of any kind result in large percentage changes,” she said about the upticks.
Part of the purpose of legalizing and regulating sports wagering was to bring the activity out of the underground marketplace. One feature of the regulated books is allowing players to self-exclude.