Tennessee rakes in with online sports gambling but calls for addiction treatment tripled

Posted at 8:10 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 00:06:35-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Addiction treatment specialists with Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Addiction Services (TAADAS) fielded three times the typical number of calls every month since sports betting launched in Tennessee last November.

Mary Linden Salter is the Executive Director of TAADAS. She says calls to the addiction treatment REDLINE have seen a huge increase and this includes calls related to all sorts of addictions.

Salter believes the pandemic forced some to seek out different ways of coping with the stress and isolation. For some people, it was alcohol, while for others it may have been online gambling.

“It was just seen as a great new diversion for a lot of people. A potential to make money at a time where they were already financially hurting,” Salter said.

State officials recognized the need and Salter says they’ve offered to pay for more people to answer calls. You can contact the 24/7 service by calling or texting 1-800-889-9789.

Salter hopes that as sports betting continues to rise in popularity, more resources continue to follow.

“My assumption is that the department will directly fund several more clinics around the state in order to provide appropriate access to care,” Salter said.

For a state where the only gambling before this was the lottery, analysts say they never expected Tennessee to become the fastest state to wager more than $1 billion. In our first month, Tennesseans wagered more than $131 million across Tennessee. It took ten other states six months to hit that total.

Jessica Welman is an analyst with and says Tennessee now consistently ranks in the top tier of states with sports gambling, but it’s even better news for what we generate in privilege tax. That’s the amount left behind once bets are paid out. Tennessee has collected $18.3 million in privilege tax. To put it in perspective, only three other states generated more since November. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois all have casinos, so there was at least a history of gambling on something other than a lottery.

The privilege tax is then split three ways with 80 percent of this money spent on school scholarships and grants. 15 percent is spent on infrastructure projects throughout the state, while 5 percent fund state addiction treatment.

Welman says Tennessee has become a model for what a state can do in little time with sports betting on the books.

“I do firmly believe that out of all the states, it truly has one of the best setups for a very competitive market for the people wanting to bet on apps. They are going to have a lot of options,” Welman said.

Welman also credits the state for keeping the cost to operate a legal betting platform relatively low compared to other states.