Vermont Boosts Support for Gambling Addictions Amid Online Sports Betting Surge

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In the tranquil confines of the Green Mountain State, home to less than 700,000 souls, the unexpected rise of online sports betting has spurred a proactive response from the Vermont Department of Mental Health. They’ve recently developed a full-fledged online platform aimed squarely at helping those grappling with all forms of gambling addiction.

Gambling in Vermont is a relatively contained enterprise, free from the frenzied activities of commercial or tribal casinos, pari-mutuel betting, or iGaming. The state does, however, maintain a lottery, and January served as the launching pad for a new frontier of online sports betting. Three notable players have stepped into the arena: DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fanatics.

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Online betting flung its digital doors wide open on January 11, under the watchful eye of Vermont’s Department of Liquor and Lottery, the regulatory heavyweight of the state’s nascent sports betting industry. Expectations for the industry played it safe, with Vermont’s 2023 sports betting bill accommodating up to six operators. However, only the three aforementioned operators staked their claim in Vermont, currently the second-least populous state in the Union, with Wyoming trailing just behind.

But where gambling flourishes, so does disquiet about its accompanying ills. The Vermont Department of Mental Health, acutely aware of this, crafted an online initiative titled, “Problem Gambling Resources.” The platform offers an immediate lifeline in the form of a gambling helpline that operates 24/7. Moreover, it serves as a hub for referrals for in-house therapy within the state.

Education is a significant component of the website, alerting users to the subtle, often hidden, signs of gambling problems. Further, it connects them to support communities such as GamTalk, a round-the-clock moderated online forum that becomes a refuge for those wrestling with gambling addiction.

There’s a keen recognition that the expansion of online gaming is a key factor in the rise of gambling disorder among Vermont residents. The department approximates that around 11,600 individuals are grappling with this issue, knowingly or otherwise.

Dr. Kelley Klein, the medical director of the state’s Mental Health Department, is pragmatic about the situation, “We understood that the initiation of online sports betting would herald a surge in potential risk for problem gambling or gambling addiction.”

Dr. Klein is hopeful that resources like the state-sponsored toll-free helpline and online support communities will make a significant difference in aiding those seeking assistance. The convenience of these support channels, being as easily accessible as the betting platforms themselves, allows individuals to reach out discreetly, initiating conversations about their concerns and seeking advice.

In addition to the online resources, the Department is also offering complimentary training sessions for the public. These sessions aim to enlighten participants about the early symptoms of gambling addiction and ways to combat it, either through self-exclusion or by helping a fellow Vermont resident to get the help they need.

Curbing mounting addiction is the motive behind Vermont’s efforts to offer its sports bettors the opportunity for self-exclusion. The state’s newly-minted responsible gaming website provides local residents the ability to voluntarily disable access to any state-regulated sportsbook for a period of their choosing, be it one year, three years, five years, or even a lifetime ban. This course of action can only be reversed once the chosen duration has expired, an approach deemed by responsible gaming advocates as an effective strategy.

Since the inception of sports betting in January, Vermont’s trifecta of online sportsbooks have collectively emerged with just over $10 million in earnings. The Vermont Department of Liquor and Lottery’s May report divulged that 27,714 bettors placed 554,263 bets, amassing over $12.6 million. These figures suggest an average bet of $22.75.
Thus, while the online betting arena thrives, it is counterbalanced by the state’s robust initiatives to ensure the mental health and wellbeing of its residents.