The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling reports it has seen a large uptick in calls to its help line in the past year, indicating that gambling addiction may be on the rise in the Sunshine State. The report comes after Governor Rick Scott slashed the program's budget, and as state lawmakers mull the idea of legalizing giant destination casinos in South Florida.
The FCCG, which operates the 1-888-ADMIT-IT helpline, says calls have increased 18 percent in the past year. That's also a 57 percent increase over the past five years.
Interestingly, a whopping 42 percent of all callers to the line reside in South Florida. That's the same area where Republicans in the state legislature are considering authorizing mega-casinos.
The FCCG also reported the following stats:
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- Crime- 35% reported they resorted to committing illegal acts to finance their gambling representing a 3% increase over the previous year and a 12% increase over the past 5 years.
- Unemployed/Public Assistance- 25% reported they were unemployed and/or collecting state assistance, a 4% increase over the previous year, also representing a 12% increase over the past 5 years.
- Suicide - Those reporting having suicidal ideation or attempts rose significantly from 11% to 16% of callers.
- Primary Gambling Problem - The most frequently cited primary gambling problem was
Slots - 46% Cards - 33% Lottery - 11%
One of the fastest growing gambling problem in Florida seems to result from "Internet Sweepstakes Centers." Through loopholes in state laws, the centers are allowed to operate slot machine-like computer games, often in strip mall store fronts. The report noted a 72% increase in calls related to the centers.
Interestingly, even though calls to 1-888-ADMIT-IT are on the rise, Scott recently slashed the program's budget. Using his veto power he emptied out a fund meant to support the program, and, according to The Miami Herald, "the council's budget went from $1.8 million in 2010-11 to $264,000 in 2011-12."