Sen. Hwang on Increase in Sports & Internet Gambling Addiction in CT (w/Video)

February 13, 2022

Calls for Enhanced Program Support for Problem Gamblers


State Sen. Tony Hwang (R-28) today joined Diana Goode, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Problem Gambling and a panel of gambling addiction experts to raise awareness for the increase in gambling addiction among Connecticut residents caused by sports and internet gambling and call for better program funding for those affected by addiction.

Those panelists included Ingrid Gillespie of Liberation Program on gambling addiction; and Richard Bragg and Stephen Matos, both peer education counselors and recovering addiction gamblers.

On the day before the NFL’s Super Bowl Sunday, one of the world’s biggest sporting and gambling events, the panel shared the stunning data on the rise of gambling addiction, urged caution on the pervasive nature of online sports wagering and called for additional funding for support services that mirror the exponential increase in access to sport wagering through online platforms.

Senator Hwang began the press conference, “We are here to raise warning flags and awareness of the lure of sports internet gambling as a public health crisis.

“You can’t watch a sporting event without incentives to bet. These free luring outreaches continue relentlessly during sporting broadcasts. The rapid rise and proliferation of in-game betting feeds into a compulsive gambler’s desire for more and faster opportunities to bet is also dangerous and insidious. There is an opportunity to gamble on every single play of a game, keeping people gambling, keeping people chasing the action.”

According to Diana Goode, this pervasive nature is evident from a marked increase in those seeking help by phone or online. Incoming calls to her organization’s 24-hour helpline from problem gamblers have recently quadrupled and hits to its website in January 2022 alone equaled its yearly total for 2021.

Of those seeking help, the demographics have also shifted. Men in their 20’s are now among the segment most at-risk for problem gambling. “Because of the speed of play, and in-play bets, they’re running into trouble really fast, and that concerns us,” Goode said.

She also attributed advertising tactics to the uptick in this demographic and beyond. “Gambling is not risk-free, but a lot of these ads are saying that it is risk-free,” she added. “I’m not exactly sure why this is ok when it comes to gambling.”

Gillespie expanded on why online gambling particularly affects those in this at-risk segment, and why added funding for prevention programs are necessary.

“From a brain development perspective in reaching our youth…our young developing brains which are fully developed at age 25 are much more susceptible to the dopamine rush that you get from gambling and other addictions. So, young people are just much more at risk of addiction,” she said.

Bragg and Matos both shared personal accounts of how they, too, became introduced to gambling at a younger age and how they’re working as peer education counselors to help those who suffer from gambling addiction.

“It’s really hard for people to even come forward and talk about it. Approximately one in five disordered gamblers will attempt or complete the act of suicide, and a lot of it is because of shame and guilt. In my own life, I was in recovery for over 25 years…I never talked about my recovery from gambling,” Matos said.

The solution, according to the panel, is increased prevention and awareness funding from the state and other entities that themselves financially benefit from online sports wagering.

“The genie is out of the bottle, and thank you to all the professionals supporting those dealing with recovery. I am asking for us to acknowledge this public health problem and support agencies and do the right thing and give a proportionate amount of money for prevention and support of our recovery efforts. It’s not a commentary on gambling, but we must speak on the warning signs and step up and support those afflicted by this addiction so that they get the mental health support that’s necessary,” said Senator Hwang.

Watch the full FB Live press conference here.