Ohio marked the first anniversary of legal sports betting on January 1, 2024, with more than $761 million in revenue. The immense success of the sector could be attributed to the state’s sports teams, according to experts. However, it has not come without challenges, with one of the major ones being the escalation in problem gambling helpline calls.
Ohio for Responsible Gambling reported that the number of gamblers seeking professional help has increased from 6,835 in 2022 to 10,637 in 2023.
Michael A. Buzzelli, Associate Director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, commented on the spike in calls, underlining that it was a common phenomenon in states that legalized sports betting. However, he said that “such a dramatic increase was surprising” and added that there was a lot of work to be done regarding the enhancement of the effectiveness of problem gambling helpline services.
Call data in Ohio shows a steep spike in December 2023, with 1,013 calls, compared to the same month in 2022, with 635 calls.
According to the Ohio Gambling Survey 2022, conducted by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services in collaboration with Ohio for Responsible Gambling, 19.8% of the state’s adult population can be categorized as low-risk, medium-risk, or problem gamblers. This translates to 1,806,490 individuals. Problem gamblers represent 2.8%, or an estimated 254,729 individuals. Since 2012, the problem gambling rate among Ohio residents has tripled.
The gambling survey data confirmed a national trend: “The more opportunities there are to gamble, the more people tend to gamble”. The survey also identified specific groups of society that are exposed to a higher risk of falling victim to problem gambling, including family members of problem gamblers, men aged 18-44, women aged 50+, teenagers, children, minorities, and people not currently in a relationship.
Problem Gamblers Can Seek Help via Several Responsible Gambling Initiatives in Ohio
The Director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio also commented on some tell-tale problem gambling signs and red flags, including withdrawing from relationships, borrowing money, exaggerating winnings or minimizing losses, and feeling restless when not gambling, among others.
Several initiatives are available to those suffering from excessive gambling or people seeking help on behalf of problem gamblers.
The first initiative is Change the Game, focused on preventing youth gambling, providing help to those already affected, and collaborating with parents, teachers, and teenagers to raise awareness of the associated risks.
The second initiative is Time Out Ohio, a Voluntary Self-Exclusion Program, administered by Ohio Casino Control and the Ohio Lottery Commissions, enabling gamblers to ban themselves from gambling for one year, five years, or for good.
Pause Before You Play is Ohio’s most recently launched statewide awareness initiative, educating gamblers on the available responsible gambling tools they can incorporate into their gambling to keep it under control.