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Sports betting sees $27 million in wagers during first week in Tennessee, raising addiction concerns

The state collected more than $500,000 in taxes and some of that will go towards services for problem gambling treatment.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — New data shows sports betting in the state saw more than $27 million in wagers during its first week in November. 

More than $5 million came from the first day alone. The state collected more than $500,000 in taxes and some of that will go towards treatment services for people with gambling addictions.

Sports betting in Tennessee started November 1 but the Tennessee REDLINE, a hotline that provides addiction information and referrals, was already getting calls. Most were for more information. 

"In October as ads and things started to create awareness we started to get an increase of calls," said Mary Linden Salter with the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and other Additional Services. 

Almost two and a half weeks in, Salter said it's still hard to predict how much calls will increase. 

"I would expect in 4-6 months to see people at least a little bit more aware of where it's taken them," she said.

She worries COVID-19 could play a big role in increasing the prevalence of gambling addiction in Tennessee.

"Looking for something to help them in these stressful times can be appealing, but it can be going down the rabbit hole like, 'Can I afford to do this or is this something good for me?'" she said.

Ads for the Tennessee REDLINE oftentimes pop up in sports betting apps. Salter said increasing awareness for addiction resources makes a big difference. 

"At least if they know we're here they'll know how to get help and information," she said.

Red flags for gambling addiction include hiding what people are doing from friends or family, feeling regret, out of control as well as an inability to limit spending. 

"When it becomes something that drives you and not something you're doing for fun, that's a big red flag," she said.

She wants people to pay attention to those signs looking past the thrill and for loved ones to look out for them as well. 

The Tennessee REDLINE number is open 24-7 by a phone call or text. The number is 1-800-889-9789. People can find more information and resources here. 

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