It’s no secret that the United States has prioritized the legalization of sports gambling over introducing a clear-cut customer safety network first. While most opponents of the gambling industry have sounded the alarm for a long time now, the first bits of evidence of how widespread problem gambling are only now beginning to come through.
Illinois blazes a trail as the State Department of Human Services released the first report attempting to gauge the issue and offer a remedy. Researchers focused on several factors to establish whether Illinois was monitoring and regulating gambling with consumers’ best interests in mind.
The report focused on the available types of gambling, availability of treatment services, attitudes toward gambling, and how individual social groups had been affected by the proliferation of gambling in the state. The majority of state citizens are actually quite happy to gamble. Some 68% of Illinois adults, that is people over the age of 21, reported that they had gambled in the past year.
Lottery remained the dominant segment, although both video slots and sports betting has been rapidly picking up since the activities were legalized in the state. Then came the more serious revelations that pinpointed the exact numbers of problem gamblers. According to the report, no fewer than 383,000 people in the state, or 3.8% of the population, suffer from a gambling-related issue.
Another 7.7% or 761,000 people are at risk of developing a more serious problem. These numbers are huge. In comparison, the prevalence of problem gambling in places such as the United Kingdom is only 0.5% based on the latest data. But even that percentage is considered too high a price to pay and a re-regulation of the industry is underway.
The State Department of Huma Service is responding to this by making quick budget allocations in the hopes of providing treatment services with the financial means to help problem gamblers. A $10 million in state funding has been allocated to treating problem gambling for fiscal 2023. Whether this works is another matter altogether.
The report’s author, Dr. Hannah Carliner, is hopeful that the results of the study can help treatment services better draft treatment policies and bring help to the people who need it the most. The focus on delivering treatment options, argues Carliner, should be driven by data that looks at the crux of the issue and creates solutions based on what is needed the most.
Moreover, the report can serve as a baseline as to how Illinois is progressing in addressing the broader issue of overcoming problem gambling in its population and offering vulnerable gamblers the support they need.
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