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North Carolina Aims to Set National Precedent on Responsible Gambling

As North Carolina prepares for the March 11 launch of online sports betting, the state seeks to set new responsible gambling standards. Lawmakers designed regulations prioritizing problem gambling education and treatment. They also allocated unprecedented funding and resources to support vulnerable residents. This progressive approach has ignited optimism that North Carolina could offer a national model for consumer protection.

Unprecedented Legal Mandates and Budgets

The 2021 legislation authorizing sports betting, House Bill 347, elevates responsible gambling from an afterthought to a central priority. The first call on revenue is “gambling addiction education and treatment programs.” Specifically, the law guarantees $2 million annually for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) to expand free counseling and resources.

This quadruples previous funding levels to $3 million total per year for NCDHHS gambling addiction services. The commitment exceeds standards in most states. Former Indiana Gaming Commission director Sara Tait praises North Carolina’s approach as “encouraging.” With firm legal obligations and budgets in place, execution becomes critical.

Strong Infrastructure Offers Promise

North Carolina enters the sports betting world well equipped on responsible gambling infrastructure. The state currently has over 70 licensed problem gambling counselors—far above average. For comparison, Kentucky had just five counselors when launching sports betting in 2023. So, North Carolina is relatively well prepared for the over 500,000 residents estimated to suffer some gambling addiction level.

Of course, infrastructure means little without public awareness and engagement. North Carolina will focus heavily on education and accessibility for diverse groups. Counselors will conduct seminars at major universities in 2024 to reach high-risk student populations. State gaming sites, including top brands like BetMGM North Carolina, must also prominently advertise the NCDHHS gambling addiction hotline.

Optimism Mingles With Uncertainty

With its rigorous regulatory framework and early initiatives, North Carolina sparks optimism about pioneering consumer safeguards. “The attention paid to responsible gaming has been encouraging,” says Tait. However, the path forward remains filled with uncertainties. Will high standards erode over time? How well will outreach campaigns work? Are budgets truly sufficient?

As East Carolina University Professor Dr. Michelle Malkin notes, vulnerable groups span socioeconomic statuses, ages and geographies. Reaching all affected individuals poses challenges, even with extra funding. More scientific research around risk factors and effective treatment is critical to optimize supports.

The Coming Months Loom Large

In many ways, North Carolina’s good intentions remain just that until implemented and measured. The next six months will prove pivotal. Will enough individuals with gambling disorders utilize newly available resources? How many at-risk residents will hear and comprehend responsible gambling messages? Is the treatment infrastructure scaling quickly enough for demand?

Answers remain elusive, lending an air of tension leading up to launch day. But the building blocks seem solid. With focus and follow-through, North Carolina can transition its ambitious vision into reality. “I think you’ll see continued growth and innovation around responsible gaming,” projects Tait. The state’s actions now likely foreshadow whether its lofty aspirations turn to national leadership.

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