It’s Time to Provide Options for Problem Gambling Help

Responsible Gaming Strategy

Feb 6, 2023

The first step to creating a successful marketing campaign is to understand your target audience.

If we can understand who they are, what they think, how they engage with the world, and most importantly, how they might engage with the product or service we’re trying to promote to them, then our chances of success skyrocket.

With this in mind, I was reading an article that was recently published on the university’s school newspaper website. Like many other states, sports betting is a new offering and the article was warning about the dangers of problem gambling.

The information presented was quite good, striking a nice mix of awareness without fearmongering.

But then I got to the end of the piece where there was a call to action to guide people to a resource where they could reach out to get help if they were struggling with a gambling problem.

The only option given was the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline number!

Now let’s step back and think about college students.

How many of them are making phone calls?

Sure, they are using their phones ALL THE TIME.

They’re using them to text and they’re using social media apps to communicate.

But how many of them are actually picking up their phone to dial a number and make a traditional call outside of their circle of friends?

I’d guess not many!

In fact, I’d guess that the easiest way to give a college student anxiety would be to tell them they have to make a phone call to set up their hair appointment. Or tell them they have to make a phone call to place their pizza order.

They just don’t do make phone calls and the research consistently backs this up. Their use of TXT messaging, apps, and the web continues to rise as their phone calls fall.

So why in the world would we guide them to a phone number to get help with problem gambling? We’re ignoring the obvious and we should expect our success rate to be substantially lower than it would be if we began to present them with options that aligned with their daily use.

At a time when there are so many great resources all across the web from the r/ProblemGambling subreddit to podcasts to websites, we really need to move beyond this singular focus on helplines as the only lifeline we present to these kids.

My suggestion would be a shift towards using a combination of websites and TXT messaging when the target audience is known to be under 40 (maybe even 50). Websites can present a wide range of options so they can find the one that feels most comfortable for them. We can also create SMS autoresponders that could deliver info and links to the same resources by simply texting a number.

And finally, I’d be remiss to not highlight that helplines play a vital role in building a safety net. Reaching out and hearing a live person on the other end of a call is just what many people need in their worst moments. But both websites and SMS messaging could present one-click options to connect to the 800 helplines, keeping this feature prominently displayed and easily accessed.

This shift is long overdue. Time is ticking.

Let’s not sit around waiting for the phone call to ring.

Jamie combined his professional background as a brand strategist with his experience as a former problem gambler to create dyve. He is also host of The After Gambling Podcast.

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