Sunday February 21,2016 : L.A. TIMES FOLLOWS PROGRESS OF CALIFORNIA D.F.S. BILL WITH STORY ON PROBLEM GAMBLING
Was the timing of this article planned?
Hard on the heels of news that DFS legalization is gaining traction in the California Legislature, and Friday's launch of Assemblyman Adam Gray's new bill seeking the legalization of online poker, the mass-circulation newspaper Los Angeles Times published a long article on problem gambling Saturday, claiming that "up to 1 million Californians already have a gambling problem."
Problem gambling specialists interviewed by the newspaper claimed that existing treatment and education programs are reaching only a small percentage of those afflicted, and that a growing number of younger punters are entering problem gambling programs.
The newspaper editorialised that the problem could escalate due to heavy marketing, especially by DFS companies, and the appeal of DFS and internet poker to "a younger, tech-savvy crowd new to wagering."
Yael Landa, director of the gambling treatment program at Beit T'Shuvah in Los Angeles warned that DFS gambling is very high risk, but that many players do not understand that and are in denial.
She revealed that the people seeking help from her institute had doubled in the past year, with many younger than the usual problem gambler age of 45, many of them fantasy sports punters in their twenties.
Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, urged lawmakers to be cautious with any expansion in gambling, warning that this leads to a corresponding growth in problem gambling unless the right prevention and treatment programs are in place.
Fong went on to claim that the ease of access to online gambling could lead to more addiction (a point of view that has been questioned by results in various research programs.)
The article details moves in some US states to ban daily fantasy sports, contrasting the situation with the increased traction the genre is gaining in the state legislature.
DFS advertising was examined in the piece, especially that pertaining to big winners, who constitute only a small percentage of the masses who play, according to one DFS addict, who admitted to losses over several years of $100,000. "There are only a few guys like that and there are a million losers," he claimed.
Other typical compulsive gambler anecdotes are included in the piece to illustrate the risk of addiction and the financial impact that undisciplined gambling can have.
DFS officials reiterated their argument that betting on fantasy sports skill-based contests does not constitute gambling, with Fantasy Sports Trade Association chief Peter Schoenke explaining that there is a difference between DFS and online poker: Internet gamblers can quickly place bets, one after another, while fantasy-sports enthusiasts have to take time to research individual players, and there is one game a day for each sport, he said, clearly trying to put some space between DFS and online gambling.
The DFS industry is aware of the dangers of problem gambling, attempts to address these, and is open to ways in which compulsive gambling could be reduced, Schoenke said.
The LA Times also canvassed the views of the California Office of Problem Gambling, which head of office Terri Sue Canale-Dalman said received $8.4 million in funding a year, mostly from tribal casino operators. She revealed that around 2,000 individuals with gambling problems a year are handled.
The organisation conducted a study 10 years ago which showed that only 1 in 5 problem gamblers were aware of its hot-line, and that better communication and education could result in over seven times that number seeking help.
The article concludes with the opinion of Assemblyman Gray, who indicated that legalization measures could help with problem gambling by allocating some of the fees paid to relevant programs as determined by the state Department of Justice.
"To the extent my legalization can provide additional resources, to increase the money available is a good thing," Gray said, explaining that legalization bills require operators to include information on how compulsive gamers can get help, prohibit them from extending credit to players and mandate that a form be provided that would allow those with problems to exclude themselves from future play.
"To say we ought to just ban everything is just to stick your head in the sand, because [fantasy sports] is going on in California," Gray said. "Why not have a legal, regulated and safe option for people to engage in? I think that's the responsible thing to do."