In an effort to streamline access across various states, the National Council on Problem Gambling this week announced a new six-year agreement with the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey to use the well-known 1-800-GAMBLER hotline in areas outside the Garden State.
The partnership is part of a project funded by the National Football League Foundation to improve call-center technology, data collection, and reporting — as well as to improve training and certification at call centers across the network.
The notion is to improve the routing of calls, which had been done according to area code. Studies show 12-15% of people have a cellphone with an area code from a state they do not live in, according to NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte. The 1-800-GAMBLER number and the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network number (1-800-522-4700) will continue to operate, as will each of the many state numbers available to gamblers seeking help. The calls will all be routed via improved technology, the NCPG said.
“Ohio knows where help is available in Ohio,” said Jamie Costello, the NCPG’s director of programs. “Having one number that’s very recognizable is very important to what we’re trying to do. Merging or harmonizing the numbers gives us the ability to make sure the technology is smooth and people get to where they need to go.”
Sports betting at the forefront
Costello said data shows that calls to help centers tend to spike shortly after sports betting goes live in states, and that the new program gives the NCPG the ability to compare “apples to apples” in order to understand the shape and breadth of the problem nationwide. It also allows callers to be routed more efficiently to call centers set up in each of the states where gambling is allowed.
Often, problem gambling ads that air during sporting events come with a long list of helpline numbers that vary based on the location of the viewer. Whyte said evidence suggests problem gamblers might only make one call seeking help and sometimes those pleas are not dealt with, because they write down the helpline number incorrectly. The AGA’s idea is to route calls that come through via the easily remembered 1-800-GAMBLER number.
“At the end, somebody always falls through,” Costello said. “On the technology end, we’re looking to figure out how to route calls more appropriately.”
The National Problem Gambling Helpline was set up in 1995 and, according to Whyte, has seen exponential growth in calls, texts, and chat messages from individuals seeking help across the country.
“Our goal is simple: to continue to make sure 1-800-GAMBLER provides aid to anyone who needs it as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Fred W. Hogan, CCGNJ board president. “We look forward to sharing our strength and experience.”