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Calls to Arizona's Problem Gambling Hotline have shot up since sports betting was legalized

It wasn’t so long ago that Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law that would change the way many Arizonans watched sports forever. He signed a bill that legalized sports betting in the state. 

That was in 2021, three years ago to the month. In that time, we’ve seen the amount of money Arizonans spend on sports betting add up fast.

According to the Department of Gaming, gross event wagering receipts have totaled approximately $15.7 billion since then. 

At the same time, the state has seen a big jump in the number of calls to its Problem Gambling Hotline — 1-800-NEXT-STEP. 

In 2021, there were just over 300 calls to the hotline. The next year, after the legalization of sports betting, there were twice as many, 614. Messages to the state’s text hotline also went way up to more than 700 after legalization. 

This is not an unexpected increase for the people running the state’s Problem Gambling Division, and they’re ramping up for even more demand going forward. The Show talked about it with Elise Mikkelsen, the division’s director.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.