Problem Gambling Network Anticipates Increase In Sports Betting Addiction In Ohio

College students, student-athletes are among those deemed most at risk of new sports betting addiction problems.

The time when Ohioans have the opportunity to place a wager on a sporting event is steadily  approaching.

The universal launch date is Jan. 1, 2023, which will be especially advantageous for sports bettors accustomed to crossing the border into a neighboring state in order to make that practice possible.

Officials from the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio (PGNO), however, are expressing concern about the upcoming rollout of sports betting, which is recognized as the largest expansion of legal gambling in Buckeye State history.

“We know from neighboring states that there is a direct correlation between expanded gambling and increased demand for gambling support service,” Derek Longmeier, PGNO executive director, said in a recent press release. “Access and availability are key contributors to problem gambling.”

At risk of new gambling problems

One in 10 Ohioans who gamble are at risk of, or currently experiencing, a gambling problem, according to a 2017 survey of At-Risk and Problem Gambling Prevalence Among Ohioans, conducted by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Based upon the law, Ohioans will have plenty of options to choose from in placing a sports bet. They’ll have the chance to use mobile apps anywhere in the state from operators like FanDuel and DraftKings. They’ll be able to place bets at brick-and-mortar sportsbooks that will be located inside the 11 casinos and racinos. Sports betting kiosks will also be present statewide at restaurants, sports bars, and other approved lottery vendors.

“PGNO is working tirelessly to ensure that no matter where you live in the state, you can receive care from a problem gambling treatment specialist,” Longmeier said.

The commission is currently accepting sports betting license applications for the window designated for Type C sports gaming hosts and second designated Mobile Management Services Providers. There’s still plenty to be completed on the commission’s sports gaming implementation timeline before the first sports wager takes place in Ohio.

PGNO associate director Michael A. Buzzelli told OH Bets in an interview that the organization will help educate the public and promote consumer protection concerning gambling addiction in the time leading up to the start date. The anticipation is that some individuals will form an addiction to sports betting that doesn’t currently exist for them.

“People will develop problems because it will be readily accessible,” Buzzelli said.

Sports betting concerns

Buzzelli said it will be easier to form an addiction to sports wagering than to playing table games or slots, because it won’t require leaving home to visit a casino or racino. Bettors will be able to use personal mobile devices anywhere in the state or utilize widely available sports betting kiosks.

Buzzelli also expects to see plenty of advertising of the sportsbooks around the time of the universal start date.

“How can you escape it? It will be very in your face,” Buzzelli said.

But Buzzelli emphasized that PGNO is not “anti-gambling.” PGNO is  focused on informing individuals about proper consumer protections and assisting those who may need help avoiding or addressing risky behavior.

College students are more vulnerable

Buzzelli said college students and student-athletes are most in danger of becoming addicted to sports betting once it becomes legally available.

“Data shows that college students and student athletes are more vulnerable because of their interest in sports,” said Buzzelli, noting that over 50 clinicians statewide have special training to treat individuals with a gambling addiction.

PGNO believes individuals can help avoid problems if they have personal protections in place, whether they’re placing bets on sports, playing table games or slots. Buzzelli said putting limits on playing time and spending — which are customarily available through tools on the betting apps — are good practice in avoiding forming an addiction.

Nevertheless, PGNO is still preparing to see an increase in the number of addicted individuals once sports betting gets underway.

“We know that any time we expand a gambling option, we’re going to expand and increase the number of people with a gambling addiction,” Buzzelli said.

The Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline is 800-589-9966 for those wanting help or more information.


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