WEATHER WATCH
Illinois to further study gambling amid high sports betting numbers
A man at a video gaming terminal (WCCU)

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is conducting a yearlong study on gambling and gambling addiction within the state.

The announcement of this study comes just months after sports betting became legal in Illinois.

Right now, anyone 21 and older within the state of Illinois can pick up a phone, go to a sports betting app like DraftKings, and place a bet within 30 seconds.

This accessibility is leading experts to believe that there is going to be a huge increase in gambling addiction in the coming years.

"We have not seen an uptick at this point, but we expect to see an uptick in the coming year,” said Illinois Council on Problem Gambling Administrator Bill Johnson.

Johnson said this study is long overdue.

"I know we haven't done a needs assessment since 1990, I think was the last one in Illinois,” Johnson said. “That's 30 years ago. And there has been so many changes in the gambling opportunities and the gambling types."

WICS

The IDHS be using $500,000 of taxpayer money on the yearlong study to better understand gambling addiction in Illinoisans.

In a statement, IDHS secretary Grace Hou said:

"Understanding the pervasiveness of gambling disorder will allow us to target communities that may be disproportionality impacted by the expansion of gambling in the state."

Sports betting wagering in Illinois topped $300 million for the month of September. 

Behavioral Health Center Psychologist Sara Bahn said tools that help the medical field understand addictions better are always key.

"I would certainly support any studies that would give us information needed to figure out where to go with helping any area of addiction,” Bahn said.

Johnson and the council have a 24/7 hotline for gambling addiction.

He said he expects a huge increase in call volume over the next few years because of legalized sports betting.

When we asked Johnson if he's ever seen gambling be more accessible than it is right now, he said, "Never."

Bahn said that accessibility is cause for concern.

"Just having something right in front of you, available, accessible, easy,” Bahn said. “Comfortability is certainly a player in addictions."

Johnson said about 2% of people who gamble or are exposed to gambling end up becoming addicts.

He said hopefully, this study can help bring that number down, because exposures now are skyrocketing.

IDHS already has tools you can use if you are or know a gambling addict.

The 24/7 hotline is 1-800-GAMBLER or 1-800-426-2537.

For the ICPG website, click here.

For the Illinois Gaming Board help, click here.

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