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With an explosion of sports betting and online gambling, Connecticut braces for a potential increase in problem gambling

Stephen Singer, Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

Online sports betting and casino gambling barreled into Connecticut this month, prompting worries about an explosive increase in already common problems blamed on gambling addiction: heavier personal debt, broken relationships and crime.

After years of debate and on-again, off-again legislative attempts to extend gambling beyond the state’s two tribal-owned casinos, sports betting, lottery games and casino gambling were authorized last week in Connecticut on phones, tablets, laptops and other devices.

“You now have a casino in your pocket,” said Cam Adair, founder of Game Quitters, a global support community for video game addiction.

As gamblers have access to a vast range of gambling with the tap of an app, casinos, too, can easily reach gamblers by emailing offers and sending notifications to phones. “It’s very different than you choosing to go somewhere,” Adair said.

The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services says broader access to gambling with online betting exposes gamblers to “vulnerabilities,” such as financial difficulties, troubled relationships with family members and significant others, poor work performance, an increase in money-related crime and a reported increase in severity of mental health related symptoms.

Adair said young people are particularly at risk because they see their parents gambling online or betting on sports teams. Gambling in Connecticut is legal for those 21 and older.

 

“The earlier they start, the easier it is to develop problems in the future,” he said.

A demographic group he’s watching is men in college between the ages of 21 and 24 who are more prone to problem gambling than others, particularly because of the appeal of sports betting. Problem gambling is an “almost silent issue” on college campuses, he said.

Opting out

As the legislation moved forward, negotiations between the administration of Gov. Ned Lamont and the Mohegans, who own and operate the Mohegan Sun, and the Mashantucket Pequots, who run Foxwoods Resort Casino, focused on apportioning the millions of dollars in revenue from expanded gambling and changing the compacts governing casino gambling in Connecticut.

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