The California gambling market could see rapid expansion if sports betting is legalized at the ballot box this November.
A new audit, however, questions if the Golden State’s responsible gambling efforts can keep up.
California Acting State Auditor Michael S. Tilden released his report earlier this month. It paints a bleak picture, which doesn’t include an estimate of how many Californians are dealing with gambling addictions.
Wait…we don’t know?
In addition, the audit says the Office of Problem Gambling has not shown it is effectively monitoring its programs. When addressing the agency, which handles an annual budget of $9 million, the audit says:
“The Office of Problem Gambling cannot show that its evaluation of its programs and services has any direct connection to improvements in those programs and services.”
The audit presents several other obvious concerns. That $9 million budget pales in comparison to the market explosion that would result from legalized sports betting in California.
PlayCA estimates a full sports betting market could lead to $40 billion in wagers. The current budget addressing problem gambling represents less than one-quarter of one percent of that total.
The need for improved responsible gambling management
Oklahoma State University professor and PlayCA correspondent John Holden addressed these concerns in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. He says this could become a dangerous situation and that it must be tackled sooner rather than later:
“Everyone knows that this is a concern but I think dollar signs sort of take over in peoples’ heads and then people just wind up doing the bare minimum. It’s really a shame because I think at some point there is going to be a price to pay for that.”
In the same piece, Dr. Timothy Fong, from the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, concurred with Holden’s assessment.
“The bottom line is we don’t know (how this will affect the number of people dealing with problem gambling) but it’d be much better to be prepared ahead of time than have thousands of people suffering and have nowhere to turn,” he said.
Dr. Fong added that the $9 million budget is far less than what California spends annually on alcohol, tobacco and cannabis education.
What’s available for Californians with gambling problems?
The Office of Problem Gambling website houses resources that can assist those who need it. Californians can call 1-800-GAMBLER, text SUPPORT to 53342 or chat with a counselor through the site’s interface.