This is What Happens When Sports Betting Operators Invest in Player Health Support

Since the federal ban was lifted on sports betting in 2018, an unintentional line was drawn in the sand between two collectives. Operators, pro-gambling regulators, professional sports leagues, and sports bettors have comprised of one. The other, it seems, has been everyone else in America. The contentious debate is analogous to many other sociopolitical issues in the country, with barbs being thrown from both sides of the fence. All the while, mental health professionals have struggled to keep up with a unique new demand for counseling and therapy services. For awhile it seemed that there would be no compromise nor end in sight. On one side of the spectrum there have been record breaking revenues, and on the other are record breaking helpline calls regarding gambling addiction. Such a thing is the perfect recipe for a stalemate.

However, there has been a fundamental shift over the past year, a shift that smells a lot like an auspicious medium.

It all started when a line of communication opened up between select sports betting companies (operators), state regulators, and Kindbridge Behavioral Health (America’s preeminent problem gambling support platform). In recognizing that traditional Responsible Gaming practices have failed to consider the proliferation of online sports betting, DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM along with the state of Colorado entered into a collaboration with Kindbridge to provide vulnerable members within their respective player bases with direct access to dedicated counseling services. The initiatives streamline the connection between compromised players and therapy that is specific to gambling disorder. These individuals are no longer left to their own devices, and not stuck in a bottleneck of helpline calls to agencies that are not prepared to provide support for problem gambling. Just last month, DraftKings opened up their partner program with Kindbridge to span beyond Colorado into all 25 states where they operate online gaming. The timing was appropriate, with America entering Mental Health Awareness Month (May).

What might the results look like so far? We’ll let this graph to the talking:

What you’re looking at (above) is a clear pattern of growth in screenings (for gambling disorder) and counseling/therapy sessions that coincides with operator and regulator collaboration with Kindbridge. Note the large jump in activity from March to April (2024) which occurred simultaneously with the DraftKings release of the player support program into all 25 U.S. states. If this is what happens when sports betting operators (and regulators) invest in player support, America is headed for a much healthier place than it has been in for the last half-decade.

It’s not far-fetched to draw a comparison between what these few operators are doing and the likes of Patagonia and other eco-conscious hard- and soft-good brands. If a company such as theirs (Patagonia, etc.) wanted to leave a zero carbon footprint on the planet they would simply choose to not exist. However, this would leave room for others to fill the space and perhaps not operate as responsibly. In following that analogy, DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM could close up shop, but that would just open the doors wide open for less responsible gambling companies, along with unregulated operators who already collect about 89% of wagers in America. The latter scenario is simply not acceptable, and so DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM (and more to follow) should be recognized for taking steps in the right direction.

There’s a lot more work to be done, but it seems that the previously drawn line in the sand has been obscured as responsible operators, regulators, and Kindbridge find a way to make sense of it all.

Stay tuned for updates.

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