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As legal sports betting begins in Massachusetts, addiction experts on lookout for uptick

Program that helps with gambling addiction prepares for sports betting in Massachusetts
Program that helps with gambling addiction prepares for sports betting in Massachusetts 02:32

EVERETT - Dressed in green shirts, Ray Fluette and his team at GameSense are ready for a big day on Tuesday.

"We're here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said Fluette, the Director of Player Health for the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health. "We're walking around, making ourselves visible. That anybody can just turn around and ask us a simply question that may lead into a more responsible gambling conversation."

Fluette works at a GameSense desk on the floor of Encore Casino, a resource to help those struggling with gambling addiction. With the dawn of legal sports betting, Fluette expects to see a new crowd.

"It's going to reach probably a younger demographic. So, people that don't normally gamble within the casinos," he said.

Rachel Volberg is a research professor at the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences and an expert in gambling addiction. She says Massachusetts residents already bet on sports, at the same levels as other states that have already legalized sports betting.

"Somewhere between 13 and 20 percent of the adult population in Massachusetts already bets on sports," Volberg said.

That is why Volberg believes that any uptick in gambling addiction due to sports betting will be moderate. She is worried about vulnerable groups that have not been exposed to it yet.

"Adolescents, both boys and girls. It includes young adults, particularly young adults from community of colors. It includes women," she said, "Immigrants. People who are new to the country."

Volberg expects sports betting companies to heavily market to these groups.  

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