Problem Gambling Helpline Calls Rose 55% In First Year Of Ohio Sports Betting 

Written By Katarina Vojvodic on January 12, 2024
Worried Man Makes Problem Gambling Call

Ohio for Responsible Gambling (ORG) released statistics related to problem gambling services in the state, showing problem gambling calls increased.

According to ORG’s study, calls to Ohio’s problem gambling helpline increased by 55% during the first year of legalized sports betting in Ohio.

Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline received over 10,000 calls in 2023

More precisely, Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline received 10,637 calls in 2023. That number almost doubled from the 6,835 calls in 2022.

Call numbers increased every month in 2022. For comparison, there were 1,013 calls in December 2023, while in December 2022, ORG received 635 calls.

20% of general adult population has some gambling problem

Furthermore, the study reveals the problem gambling rate in Ohio has tripled since 2012. Survey results show:

  • The number of people estimated to have a gambling disorder increased to 2.8 %, with nearly 255,000 individuals among Ohio’s adult population
  • Over 1.8 million adult residents in Ohio can be classified as low-risk, moderate-risk, or problem gamblers, which is almost 20% of the general adult population

Michael Buzzelli, associate director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said in a Ohio for Responsible Gambling news release:

“While we knew calls would increase and anticipated this due to the increases seen in other states already operating sports betting, such a dramatic increase was surprising and lets us know there is a lot of work still to be done for responsible gambling advocates statewide.”

Buzzelli added that Ohio follows a “national trend” where diverse groups of Americans are seeing increased issues with problem gambling. Vulnerable groups include:

  • Women ages 50+
  • Teenagers
  • Minorities
  • Single people
  • Family members of individuals currently experiencing problem gambling

ORG offers various tools and resources for Ohio gamblers

Buzzelli encouraged Ohioans to look out for problem gambling warning signs like borrowing money, withdrawing from relationships or hobbies, or exaggerating wins.

If someone has concerns, ORG offers special resources to find support, like:

  • Pause Before You Play – the statewide awareness campaign that targets sports betting and encourages people to set betting limits and money spent proactively
  • Time Out Ohio – a voluntary program allowing bettors to exclude themselves from Ohio casinos, racinos and sportsbooks for a specific amount of time
  • Change the Game Ohio – a program that helps parents and care providers educate youth about the risks of gambling

Ohio sports betting went live exactly one year ago

After state lawmakers passed House Bill 29, Ohio sports betting went live on Jan. 1, 2023. Since then, Ohio has imposed 2% of the sports betting revenue tax to go toward a problem sports gambling fund.

Ohio’s legalized sports betting market impacted the 2023 statistics, drastically increasing call volume within the last year.

When launching its sports betting, Ohio was among a few states that acknowledged people in the 18-20 age as most vulnerable and established some of the strictest advertising and marketing standards.

The aim was to protect players under 21 from being exposed to gambling. The state even considered banning celebrities from advertising legal sportsbooks.

Matt Schuler, executive director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, voiced displeasure when Kentucky regulators set legal gambling age to 18.

According to a WCPO news article, Schuler said: “The younger ones are most vulnerable as they’re not at the age yet where they can thoroughly process the consequences of their actions. Not my opinion. Scientific fact.”

Ohio requires players to be 18+ to bet on lottery and horse races legally. But to place bets at casinos and sportsbooks, players must be 21.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Katarina Vojvodic

Katarina Vojvodic is a lead writer for PlayUSA who lives in Toronto. Vojvodic provides coverage of the US gambling industry with a focus on US online casinos. Previously, she covered Ontario’s online gambling industry for Vojvodic holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Belgrade. Outside working hours, she can be found near the water with her husband and their two kids.

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