New Problem Gambling Awareness Campaign Created to Address Legalized Sports Betting in Ohio

With legalized sports betting arriving in Ohio on Jan. 1, 2023, Ohio For Responsible Gambling (ORG) launched a new effort to educate Ohioans on the dangers of problem gambling and how to play responsibly.

Pause Before You Play is a spinoff of Get Set Before You Bet, an award-winning problem gambling education effort from ORG.

Amanda Blackford, Director of Operations and Problem Gambling Services, Ohio Casino Control Commission, said this campaign focuses on responsible play and the nuances of sports betting that can pose problems for some gamblers.

Blackford said people can bet on sports “basically anywhere with cell phone reception,” brick-and-mortar locations, and digital terminals in bars that already hold a liquor license and sell lottery tickets. The difference is it’s easy for people to place multiple bets in real-time, accelerating the chance for potentially catastrophic losses. It’s also much easier for people to conceal the amount they bet.

“In other states that preceded Ohio in legalizing sports betting, we’ve seen higher interest and more struggles with problem gambling,” Blackford said. “We want people to have fun and be responsible.”

Derek Longmeier, Executive Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said the campaign emphasizes the importance of early detection. Problem gamblers don’t have physical symptoms.

“The challenges of problem gambling go far beyond the person placing a bet,” he said. “Families, children, and businesses, all face consequences with a person’s gambling addiction.”

A 2017 study found casino gamblers and sports gamblers had the highest rates of at risk/problem gambling: 24.0% and 24.3% respectively. Blackford said those with gambling problems also have higher risks of drug or alcohol use and mental health conditions, including thoughts of suicide.

The 2017 Report on Problem Gambling Services found nearly one in ten Ohioans who gamble are currently experiencing or are at risk of developing a problem. That’s more than 900,000 Ohioans.

“The majority of Ohioans who gamble will stay within their limits,” Longmeier said. “As sports betting grows exponentially in 2023, it makes sense that we will see more challenges here in Ohio.”

Anyone having suicidal thoughts should call the new 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Additionally, the Problem Gambling Helpline is available 24/7 at 1-800-589-9966 or texting 4HOPE to 741741.

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