Advocates Warn of Gambling Addiction Risks as Ohio Endeavors Into Legal Betting

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1 in 4 sports bettors are at risk for gambling addiction - Photo by Baishampayan Ghos/FlickrCC
Photo by Baishampayan Ghos/FlickrCC
1 in 4 sports bettors are at risk for gambling addiction

With the excitement building over this weekend's American Football Conference and National Football Conference championship games, sports betting is increasing as well, but what appears to be fun and games can be problematic for some people.

According to the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, about one in 10 Ohioans who gamble are at risk for developing a gambling problem. The number increases to one in four for those who bet on sports.

Derek Longmeier, executive director of the Network, said there are other risk factors.

"Males tend to be more active in sports betting than females, and subsequently their rates of being at risk are higher," Longmeier reported. "There's an exponentially higher increase of probability of being at risk for developing a gambling problem if you have a substance-use disorder or a mental-health disorder."

There was an 80% increase in U.S. adults age 21 and older who bet on sports at least once a month in 2021. The rise coincides with the surge of states legalizing sports wagering, which now includes Ohio.

The Casino Control Commission is currently crafting industry rules, including directing 2% of Ohio's sports gaming revenue to gambling-addiction services.

In a recent survey, 10 out of 23 economists said the benefits of legal sports betting in Ohio could outweigh the costs; four of those surveyed expected costs to outweigh benefits and nine were uncertain.

Longmieir pointed out his concern is the largest expansion in gambling Ohio has ever seen.

"Opportunities to sports bet will not only just be the casinos and racinos, but it can be your bar, restaurant, or bowling alley," Longmieir noted. "Through the mobile element, there's going to be plenty of opportunities to bet on sports probably 24/7 in the palm of your hand any given day."

Longmeier explained gambling becomes a problem truly one bet at a time. And it can happen when someone bets to escape stress or depression, views gambling as an income source, or fails to set limits on their wagers. He added there is often secrecy about finances, and sometimes dishonesty.

"I very much am disheartened by the calls that I get of loved ones who didn't realize there was a gambling problem until their house was foreclosed upon, or their car was repossessed," Longmeier lamented. "So if you're wondering about it, then ask about it."

The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio's "Get Set Before You Bet" and "Change the Game Ohio" programs are two resources for help, and the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-859-9966.
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