Florida’s gambling helpline received twice as many calls when it opened for online sports betting.

According to statistics from the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling Inc., calls to Florida’s problem gambling helpline more than doubled in the month after the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s late-year release of a sports betting app.

The helpline is managed by a non-profit council, and it reported that calls to the helpline jumped by 100% in mid-December over the previous month when the Tribe made its Hard Rock Bet app available to all residents in the state who are at least 21.

Despite ongoing legal disputes in state and federal courts, the app launched late last year. Hard Rock, which shut down its sports betting app in response to legal issues after it was first released in 2021, reactivated the service in November with restricted access before opening it up to the public the following month.

The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling’s executive director, Jennifer Kruse, stated that more people having access to internet gambling is probably contributing to the rise in calls to the hotline. However, she issued a warning, saying that it’s too soon to assess the introduction of the Hard Rock app in its entirety.

According to Kruse, a shift in society’s perception of gambling as more acceptable is one of the other elements contributing to the upsurge. She added that due of the warnings included with sports betting advertisements, those in need of help with a gambling addiction can now locate the helpline with greater ease.

According to Kruse, “it will now be easier for them to get help if they do develop a problem.”

The Seminole Tribe of Florida issued a statement stating that it was “committed to player safety and responsible gambling” and that “the number of helpline calls” will certainly increase as a result of its promotion of the helpline.

According to Kruse, the increase in help requests has been led by younger men. In the midst of a profusion of online gambling choices, including fantasy sports platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel, whose legality has also been contested, she claimed that young people are now graduating from college, getting jobs, gaining access to credit, and making considerable cash for the first time. According to Kruse, some young people start gambling before their brains are fully developed, which makes them more likely to experience issues when they gamble.

The council has previously observed increases in the number of calls, texts, emails, and live chats from individuals requesting assistance following the launch of betting apps. With the initial release of the Hard Rock app online in November 2021, the number of requests regarding online gambling nearly doubled at the hotline. When the Florida version of Caesar’s Horse Racing App launched in May 2022, there was a 47% spike in hotline queries from people who said their main gambling issue was online gambling.

Furthermore, according to figures given by the helpline, Florida previously had a notable increase in issues associated with internet gambling during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Kruse, those who were confined to their homes after casinos closed discovered ways to gamble through foreign operators.

Increased access to internet betting, according to Kruse, presents a special risk as users don’t see themselves physically spending money.

Kruse remarked, “You’re not watching the money leave your hand.”

The legal questions surrounding whether Gov. Ron DeSantis’ gambling compact with the Seminole Tribe violates the constitutional requirement for voter approval of casino expansion and whether the statewide sports betting app can be construed as wagering on tribal land remain unresolved, thus leaving the fate of online gambling in Florida uncertain.

The state should mandate that all gaming operators make financial contributions to the helpline, the council demanded.