New Ohio Gambling Addiction Program May Clear Your Crime Record

Written By J.R. Duren on October 11, 2022
New court program may help clear convictions for Ohio problem gamblers

Cuyahoga County is getting a head start on helping problem gamblers.

This week, the county’s common pleas court announced the Problem Gambling Addiction Program (PGAP) launch. The initiative will allow certain gamblers convicted of crimes to clear their conviction after completing the program. It is the first of its kind.

Administrative and Presiding Judge Brendan J. Sheehan this about PGAP at a press conference:

“A primary goal of our Court is to help individuals overcome the difficulties that brought them into the justice system. By treating a person’s problem gambling addiction, we hope to eliminate the source of these criminal acts.”

The program will be a collaboration between the court, Recovery Resources, and Ohio for Responsible Gambling. Its goal is to “break the cycle of addiction,” Sheehan said.

In addition, anyone in need of help anywhere in the country can call 800-GAMBLER to get instant information on local resources.

Ohio gambling addiction program can help 50 clients at a time

PGAP is designed for problem gamblers who get in trouble with the law as a result of their addiction.

Ohio Lottery Director of Responsible Gambling Karen Russo said problem gambling leads to a variety of crimes, including:

  • Felonies
  • Assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Aggravated assault

So, say a gambler is arrested for a felony related to their gambling addiction. The court can refer the gambler to PGAP.

If the gambler gets into the program, specially trained probation officers known as “gambling recovery officers” will meet with the gambler and do an assessment of their addiction.

From there, the officers will work with Recovery Resources and certified counselors to help the gambler break their gambling addiction.

According to the court, if the gambler successfully finishes their program, the court might dismiss their felony charge.

The program can support up to 50 people at a time.

Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss said her department is pleased to see the program start. It coincides with the governor’s push for better mental health services. Criss commented:

“Governor Mike DeWine’s focus on addressing mental illness and addictions for overall wellness has changed thousands of lives for the better. This program will encourage recovery for those with gambling problems.”

The program comes at a crucial time in Ohio’s sports betting history

Overall, about 0.9% of Ohio adults are problem gamblers, the court noted. That’s about 800,000 people—a considerable problem, especially with the imminent launch of Ohio sports wagering.

Just the idea of sports betting launching soon seems to have stoked Ohio’s problem gambling. Russo said that calls to the state’s problem gambling hotline have jumped more than 32% recently.

That uptick in calls coincides with the start of the NFL season and the Cleveland Guardians’ run to the MLB playoffs. Later this month, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Columbus Blue Jackets will start their seasons, too. Sheehan said:

“With the guardians starting their first playoff series tomorrow, and the Browns hopefully playing good football against the Chargers, and the Ohio State football team playing this weekend, it seemed like a good time to let you know about this program.”

Photo by PlayUSA/Shutterstock
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J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has covered the gambling beats for more than a dozen states for Catena Media since 2015. His past reporting experience includes two years at the Villages Daily Sun, and he is a first-place winner at the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism Contest.

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