Arnie Wexler, former executive director of the Council for Compulsive Gambling, predicts a severe rise in gambling addiction as a result of the Supreme Court striking down the federal ban on sports betting Monday.
“We’ve opened up a real circus here,’’ Wexler, co-author of All Bets Are Off: Losers, Liars, and Recovery from Gambling Addiction," told USA TODAY Sports. “You’re going to have so many people addicted to gambling in the next couple of years, it’s going to be crazy. We’re going to have a volcano of gambling addiction in America.’’
Wexler, active in the treatment of gambling addiction as far back as the 1970s, said a Gallup survey illustrates the imminent problem. He said the survey found 81 percent of people have bought lottery tickets but only 31 percent of people have bought “illegal numbers,’’ which are played mostly in working class neighborhoods.
“You’ve got people today that would never, ever gamble with a bookmaker and never do anything illegal, and now you’re making it legal,’’ Wexler said. “They’re going to be all over this sports betting thing.’’
Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said gambling addiction last year resulted in social costs of almost $7 billion, most stemming from health care and criminal justice.
Whyte said he’s calling for a “national safety net’’ to be funded by 1 percent of legal gambling revenues.
Last year, Whyte said, $115 billion was generated in legal gambling and states allocated $71 million for addiction prevention and treatment — less than a 10th of a percent of the total revenue.
The money typically covers help lines, treatment programs and education messages, according to Whyte.
“There’s massive gaping holes in the safety net and now you have this massive potential expansion,’’ he said. “…Hopefully this is a teachable moment for people to come together and realize that you have to look at gambling addiction as a national public health issue.’’
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