Problem Gambling Concerns Grow in Kentucky

After many years of failed attempts, the Bluegrass State has now been added to the growing map of US states with legal sports betting.

While celebrated by its proponents, the decision to legalize sports betting is concerning news for those invested in the mental health of the state’s residents. According to a survey provided by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission over 12 percent of those who gambled in the reported annum indicated that they may have exhibited problematic gambling behavior. The same report found that 5.6 percent of the adult population were considered to be “at risk” gamblers. If that proportion holds up into 2023, the state is faced with nearly 200,000 adult residents who are at risk. How will they fare now that sports betting is legal?

Why Kentucky Problem Gambling Concerns Are Growing With the Recent Legalization of Sports Betting in the State

Measures to Limit Exposure Are Too Limited

To be clear, the passing of House Bill 551 in Kentucky’s socially conservative Senate does not necessarily open the floodgates for rampant sports betting. There are limits, namely in the stipulation that residents will “only” be allowed to bet on sporting events at the state’s nine horse tracks and at their casino-style historical horse racing venues.

Limiting sports betting to these physical locations may seem like a consolation for opponents, but there is one major caveat at play. Online and app-based wagering platforms such as FanDuel and Draft Kings are allowed to operate in the state as long as they have agreements with a horse track to get a license. You can already hear the cheers over revenue sharing possibilities for brick and mortar operators as it’s anticipated that 80% of Kentucky’s in-state sports betting will take place online. As a result, residents who are at-risk of problem gambling are only a smartphone download away from participating in a dangerous (to them) activity.

Young Adults at Even Greater Risk

The legal age of gambling in Kentucky is 18. Efforts to raise the minimum sports betting age from 18 to 21 failed prior to passing House Bill 551. That means teenagers can now bet on sports in the state.A country that already has a teenage gambling problem can now add another southeastern region into the fold.

The gap in frontal lobe development between 18 and 21 is big. When you consider that the frontal lobe is responsible for making spontaneous and self-generated behaviors and internally driven decision-making, you can see how concerning the allowance of sports betting for those under 21 can be. This age group already has enough to content with when it comes to mental health.

Neighbors Placed at Risk Too?

Kentucky is already surrounded by other states that offer legal sports betting. Only one neighbor remains without – Missouri. In fact, just yesterday (April 6/2023) the Missouri Senate was once again unable to reach a deal on sports wagering legislation after an eight-hour debate.

The news that Kentucky has fallen in line with the other 74% of U.S. states to offer legal sports gambling will surely add to Missouri’s concerns. This is not only due to added pressure to cave to tax dollar opportunities, but because gambling tourism can draw residents from Missouri to Kentucky. It’s fully legal to bet on sports within the borders of another U.S. state where the activity is regulated.

Data shows that a very concerning 70% of Kentucky residents live in a community that does not have adequate access to mental health professionals. When you consider that this number is in reference to generalized behavioral health services one can only imagine how much more limited access to specialized gambling disorder treatment can be. While the State has devoted funding to make problem gambling resources more accessible, more needs to be done. This is where Kindbridge comes in. We offer highly-specialized gambling disorder therapy to Kentucky residents (and the entire USA) in a welcoming, safe, and confidential online environment that allows people to get support today.

Problem Gamblers in Kentucky:

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


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