Ribbons or rehab? Many have heralded the arrival of Louisiana mobile sports betting with ribbon-cutting ceremonies and other general excitement. But others worry about or experience the dark side: gambling addiction.
In response, the legislature has taken up a debate of Louisiana Senate Bill 290, which would require mobile sports betting operators to participate in a program designed to combat problem gambling.
This dovetails with the Apr. 26 news that personal finance website WalletHub has ranked Louisiana as the 6th most gambling-addicted state in the country.
It also comes on the heels of the resignation of a state senator. Who is now the subject of a federal investigation. That investigation relates to the senator’s admitted gambling addiction and finances.
Behind Louisiana Senate Bill 290
Republican Senate President Page Cortez of Lafayette put forth Louisiana Senate Bill 290. It has already been advanced by the Senate Judiciary B Committee to no objections.
If the bill passes both the Senate and House, the state will have to report those who have chosen the self-exclusion option to mobile sports betting operators.
US gambling addiction by the numbers
In 2016, a study commissioned by the Louisiana Department of Health estimated some 280,000 adults in the state experienced problem gambling.
And according to debt.org, more than 5 million adults nationally now meet the criteria for problem gambling. WalletHub puts it at 1-3%.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Nevada came in first in WalletHub’s rankings of most gambling-addicted states. Utah has the lowest gambling addiction rate. Probably because the state doesn’t offer any legal gambling options, not even a state lottery.
WalletHub goes on to say, “Individually, a male gambling addict accumulates an average debt of between $55,000 and $90,000 whereas a female averages $15,000.”
According to Keith Whyte, Executive Director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, US gamblers lost $120 billion last year. But, he cautioned, “It’s incredibly hard to find good numbers because state governments and the gambling industry don’t want people to know how big a problem this is.”
He cited the convenience of cell phones and the “massive expansion” of legalized online gambling as factors in America’s increasing gambling problem.
A Senator’s struggle
In 2019, Senator Karen Peterson of New Orleans disclosed her gambling problem after a TV station reported that she violated her self-exclusion casino ban. The violation resulted in a misdemeanor summons.
Understandably, the TV station’s action caused some concerns that people who voluntarily self-excluded would worry about their privacy being maintained.
Just this month and a little more than a year before her current term ended, Peterson resigned. She’s spent about 30 years in politics, 22 of those in the Senate. She has supported legislation providing:
- Higher educational opportunities
- Rights for human trafficking victims
- Cancer treatment for patients
Recently Peterson sponsored a bill to designate March as Louisiana’s Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
The federal investigation into her finances has her full cooperation, her attorney told the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate. On Apr. 8, the day she resigned, she tweeted that she wanted to focus on self-care. She has had “long-running battles” with depression as well as a gambling addiction.
How to self-exclude in Louisiana
Louisiana’s self-exclusion program has been around for over a decade. If someone wants to self-exclude in the state, they have to schedule a meeting with a state police gaming operations field office.
At the meeting, their picture will be taken, which will go from there to gaming officials at casino facilities statewide. And if Louisiana Senate Bill 290 passes, their info will also go to online sports betting operators.
Resources: The Louisiana Problem Gamblers Helpline
Call or text 1 (877) 770-STOP (7867). The helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is toll-free and confidential.
Louisianans can get FREE residential help with problem gambling at the Center for Recovery (CORE) in Shreveport. 1-318-424-HELP (4357).
Outpatient help is offered elsewhere throughout the state.