The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is expected to close a deal that would acquire the rights to the 800-GAMBLER line, which is attached to a New Jersey problem gambling organization, and begin the process of establishing it as a national hotline. The announcement was first reported by PlayUSA.
The deal is an attempt to consolidate the expanding gaming industry around one recognizable helpline, given the fact that there are currently over 25 different state-run numbers. Not only are those local lines difficult to remember, but they are largely seen as a waste of government resources given their ineffectiveness.
The 800-GAMBLER line would also replace the NCPG’s own existing number, which is 800-522-4700. According to the NCPG, they hope to be able to partner with existing local services so that when the national number is called, it gets routed to the appropriate jurisdiction.
NCPG executive director Keith Whyte told PlayUSA that “the board of directors of NCPG still hasn’t made that decision yet, but I don’t think we would try and get the rights of 800-GAMBLER if we weren’t going to use it.”
However, in order for the process to start, the NCPG must first reach an agreement with the Council on Problem Gambling of New Jersey (CPGNJ), which is a separate non-profit organization. The CPGNJ has operated the hotline since the 1980s, and also owns the domain 800gambler.org.
According to Whyte, negotiations are ongoing, although it is unclear at this point exactly what the New Jersey council is seeking in terms of compensation. The CPGNJ has yet to comment on the potential deal.
Part of the motivation for the consolidation comes from third parties such as the National Football League, who wish to streamline the service for advertising and marketing purposes, especially as casino gambling and sports betting continue to expand. The NCPG has also said that a national hotline would significantly help with data collection and standardized training practices.
American Gaming Association (AGA) vice president Cait DeBaun told PlayUSA that as more states jump into the gaming industry, the need for national services has only increased.
“It’s possible that an ad can have up to 12 helpline numbers, and that’s not providing service to a customer if someone is in need of help,” DeBaun said. “If they’re looking at the advertisement and writing down that number, they should be able to write down one number, call that number and get connected to help that’s going to be the most convenient and relevant to them.”
This issue came to light during this year’s Super Bowl, when an ad for Caesars featured numerous state helplines, but due to New York state regulations, their number was much larger than the others. As a result, there was an influx of calls from people outside of the state, who were turned away and told to contact the hotline for their jurisdiction.
Aside from negotiations with the CPGNJ, the NCPG’s biggest roadblock in the way of national consolidation has to do with call technology—essentially, 911 is currently the only emergency number with the capability to geolocate calls in the way that the NCPG hopes to achieve.
A new solution may have to be worked up, and Whyte hinted at the possibility of a menu system where callers plug in their location or select from a list of options.