Ohio Problem Gambling Groups Prep for Jan. 1 Sports Betting Launch

Written By J.R. Duren on December 27, 2022
Ohio prepares for problem gambling

With the launch of Ohio sports betting less than a week away, the state’s health agencies are prepping for what will likely be a significant increase in contacts from problem gamblers.

Several agency representatives spoke with the Springfield News-Sun about what they’re doing to prepare for the new year. William Roberts, a recovery services senior manager for two agencies in the Dayton area, said the launch will push the limits of problem gamblers’ self-control.

“As more states continue to legalize sports betting, the chances are even greater for individuals to develop a gambling addiction,” he said. “The ease of mobile betting increases the temptation to bet more than you can afford to lose and makes it easier to hide your betting from concerned loved ones.”

Ohio call centers could see triple the number of help calls

Colleen Oakes, manager of the Montgomery County Prevention Coalition, told the News-Sun mobile sports betting presents a new problem for gamblers.

Whereas casino staff often watch for problem gamblers, nobody is monitoring bettors when they’re sitting on their living room couch.

That accessibility and autonomy will inevitably lead to spikes in addiction. And, when addiction rates go up, so do calls for help. Oakes said that gambling hotline calls doubled or tripled in five states that launched sports betting.

Earlier this year, Ohio Lottery Director of Responsible Gambling Karen Russo noted that gambling hotline calls had already jumped more than 32% as of early October.

NCPG stresses the risks of mobile sports betting

As Oakes pointed out, the ease of online sports betting accessibility is an issue for problem gamblers. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) notes that problem gambling rates are at least twice as high among sports bettors as they are for all gamblers.

“When sports gambling is conducted online, the rate of problems is even higher, with one study of online sports gamblers indicating that 16% met clinical criteria for gambling disorder and another 13% showed some signs of gambling problems,” the NCPG noted in a study.

County-level programs could help curb addiction surge

Montgomery County’s addiction counselors will likely be busy over the next year. But it’s not just hotlines that will see a surge in cases.

This past October, Cuyahoga County’s common pleas court launched the Problem Gambling Addiction Program. Basically, the initiative acts as an intervention for those who have been arrested for gambling-related felonies. Participants would enroll in the program instead of serving jail time. And, if they complete all the program’s requirements, the court may dismiss their felony charge.

The program can support up to 50 participants at a time. It’s likely they’ll hit that limit over the next couple of years.

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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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