Mobile sports betting launched in Maryland on Wednesday, as seven mobile sportsbook operators went live in the state. With the launch comes a rush of excited bettors signing up for sports betting platforms and wagering on a host of sporting events, from the NFL to the NBA to the World Cup.
“We’re concerned that there may be an increased rate and severity of gambling problems in Maryland, at least in the short term,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
The Maryland Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling (the Center) is a program of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and funded by the Maryland Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Administration. The Center offers resources for Marylanders with gambling problems, and it also works to promote smart gambling habits.
“Our goal really is to promote healthy and informed choices regarding gambling and problem gambling,” said Mary Drexler, the Center’s program director.
As for the mobile launch, Drexler says the Center plans to monitor the state of the industry as more data flows in about how widespread mobile access impacts gambling problems in the state. She wouldn’t be shocked to see a rise in those who need help, given the easy access to mobile wagering platforms.
“We are watching it very closely because we expect, we’re not sure because we haven’t seen it yet, but there may be an increase in those people who call for help,” Drexler said.
Resources for bettors
So how does the Center help Marylanders in need?
There’s a 24-hour helpline (1-800-GAMBLER) Drexler recommends calling. Callers will be directed to potential resources, including counselors and peer recovery specialists. The peer recovery specialists provide a slightly less formal form of support than the counselors, offering advice and resources to those in need of help.
Drexler also encourages those with gambling problems to visit helpmygamblingproblem.org. That website includes helpful resources, including a self-assessment bettors can take to see if they’re showing signs of problem gambling.
Whyte recommends visiting responsibleplay.org, which offers national resources and tips to develop healthy gambling habits. Even if you don’t have a gambling problem, visiting the site to learn about healthy gambling practices can be valuable.
Maryland’s partnership with PointsBet
Whyte raised a concern about PointsBet’s partnership with the University of Maryland. The deal, signed in December 2021, was the first sports betting partnership in the Big Ten. The deal includes “fan-facing in-game and campus activations.”
“One of the risky things about Maryland is that one sports betting operator has signed a partnership deal with the University of Maryland athletic department,” Whyte said. “When you look at people that are at high risk for gambling problems, young male college students are at the top of that list.”
There’s significant concern from the NCPG about the partnership, and it’s not the only partnership between a university and a sports betting operator. Caesars, for example, has a notable partnership with Louisiana State University, a well-known SEC program.
Even with colleges forming business relationships with operators, most states, including Maryland, require bettors to be 21 years old to legally wager.
“The majority of students at the University of Maryland are underage to bet on sports,” Whyte said. “One operator is helping to create additional risk across the entire system.”
Whyte hopes to eventually see a day where operators make a bigger push to incentivize players to gamble responsibly.
“That’s where I think you’ll really start to see progress in responsible gambling, when a company starts putting real serious money behind it,” Whyte said.