Lawyer Hopes National Surge In RG Efforts Continues In North Carolina

Sara Tait, former executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission and current partner in Ice Miller’s Government Affairs and Regulatory Law Group, is observing North Carolina’s approach to responsible gambling with a keen eye.

With less than a month before the launch of online sports betting on March 11, regulators have already laid much of the groundwork for NC responsible gambling initiatives. To aid in their approach, leading NC university researchers along with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have contributed their insights.

Tait tells NCSharp that she has been “encouraged with the attention paid to responsible gaming” on a national scale, and hopes the trend continues in North Carolina.

North Carolina sports betting law prioritizes responsible gambling

House Bill 347, which legalized online sports betting in North Carolina, allocated sports betting tax revenue to a range of initiatives.

The top priority for the net proceeds of all sports betting tax revenue is “gambling addiction education and treatment programs.”  To that end, the state will allocate $2 million of sports betting tax revenue annually to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to bolster these programs. That revenue increases the NCDHHS’s annual budget for such programs from $1 million to $3 million.

“The industry and stakeholders are invested in prioritizing responsible gaming and understand the importance of the issue,” says Tait.

While the increase in the NCDHHS budget — a budget that had not grown since 2008 — shows an earnest commitment, the real indication will come in the community’s engagement in the programs on offer.

As the NCDHHS’s conversations with NCSharp emphasize, the success of the state’s gambling treatment resources relies on how well people find and use them.

North Carolina’s problem gambling preparations well above national averages

Preparation for problem gambling gets measured in a number of ways: money allocated for treatment, people hired to treat, train and educate, services available for problem gamblers, educational resources, etc.

According to the 2021 Survey of Publicly Funded Problem Gambling Services in the United States, North Carolina performed above the national average in the number of approved gambling addiction counselors in the state.

At the time, the state employed 74 problem gambling counselors. By comparison, at the time Kentucky launched online sports betting in 2023, the state had five gambling addiction counselors.

North Carolina’s number of licensed gambling treatment professionals will certainly increase with the increased funding to the NCDHHS.

The NCDHHS’s $3 million budget, which also comes in above the national average, situates North Carolina in a strong position to help citizens in this regard.

Helping people find resources a key factor in NC’s problem gambling success

Dr. Michelle Malkin, assistant professor of criminal justice at East Carolina University and a leading national voice in responsible gambling research, estimates that 5% of North Carolina’s population suffers from some form of gambling addiction. That’s roughly 525,000 people.

Even with an increased budget, that leaves less than a dollar per person to treat addiction.

As WUNC 91.5 FM, a New England NPR affiliate, reported in December, gambling addiction help, at the national level, is difficult to find.

While North Carolina has resources for everyone from school-age children to families of people with gambling addiction, how they disseminate this information and make it accessible is now the challenge.

As Tait says, “More data, funding and established best practices are needed, and I think you’ll see continued growth in this area over the coming months.”

Gambling awareness seminars at NC colleges and universities

One such practice that North Carolina college students will see in the next year is the introduction of gambling education seminars at NC college campuses.

EPIC Risk Management will conduct gambling education seminars at four North Carolina universities in 2024:

  • Duke University
  • High Point University
  • UNC Pembroke
  • East Carolina University

College students represent a particularly vulnerable demographic due to their proximity to collegiate sports and propensity to gamble. Seeing that NC responsible gambling resources will flow into this demographic is a good sign.

It will take the state digging into the challenges facing different demographics and tailoring treatment for each before we truly see the state move the needle toward greater public good.

About the Author

Tyler Andrews

Tyler is the Managing Editor for NCSharp.com, covering sports, sports law, and gambling for the Tar Heel State. He has also covered similar topics for PlayTexas, PlayGeorgia, PlayCA, PlayFlorida, PlayOhio, and PlayMA. Tyler’s current focus is North Carolina’s pathway to gaming legalization.