bling help line and speak with a counselor at Travelers' Aid, or a counselor at the Connecticut Council (because the Connecticut problem gambling help line is advertised as covering Rhode Island), or a counselor with the Texas Council (which picks up Connecticut calls after hours). Depending on how frequently these entities share and update information, they may each have a different set of referrals or use different counseling techniques. This may well be an embarrassment of riches for the caller, but it could also be a potential source of confusion.
Help lines that report data on the number of calls received distinguish between legitimate calls by or about problem gamblers and inappropriate ones that ask for information on how to gamble or for the winning lottery number. These data were provided to the committee either from responses to our mini-survey or were calculated on a weekly basis from data already reported in summary form in help-line reports or datasheets. It is important to keep in mind that a limitation of the data is that some states reported only the number of calls that generated demographic statistics, which may not represent all help-related calls. With these caveats in mind, weekly call volume ranged from about 10 to several hundred. Some states, such as New Jersey, whose 1-800-GAMBLER number is publicized nationally and receives calls from all over the country, and Texas, which contracts to cover calls from a large number of states, reported several hundred calls per week. New England and Maryland reported 100 or more calls per week, and 6 other states (Florida, Minnesota, New York, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) reported between 50 and 100 calls weekly.
Some help lines have developed information systems about calls and clients. The variability between them is considerable; they ask different questions, do not necessarily ask all questions of all callers, and report data using different summary categories. Some programs make detailed information regularly available, in the form of mailouts, annual reports, or postings to their Internet web site; others report information only as required to do so. Given this heterogeneity of formats and content of data, it is difficult to draw reliable conclusions. However, three systematic investigations of help-line data are worthy of our attention. First, a study by Wallisch and Cox (1997) compared the demographic distribution of callers to the Texas help line with the demographics