COLUMBUS, Ohio — In the last seven years gambling in Ohio has skyrocketed.
“There’s more gambling availability now in Ohio than there’s ever been before,” Bruce Jones said.
Jones, with the Maryhaven Gambling Intervention Program, says that’s because of more accessibility like casinos, gaming and online betting.
“It’s right there with alcohol, cocaine, cannabis, opioids, hypnotics,” he said. “A behavioral addiction of gambling disorder.”
In 2012, Jones says about 450,000 people in the state were showing signs of gambling addiction. In 2019, that number jumped to 900,000.
To put that into perspective, that’s more than the entire population of the city of Columbus, two times the city of Cleveland’s population and three times the population of Cincinnati.
“There’s a lot of people that need help,” Derek Longmeier said.
Longmeier is with the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio and says phones ring off the hook with Ohioans asking for help with gambling addiction.
“We receive 400-500 calls a month,” he said.
The highest call volume comes during this time of year because of sports.
According to Forbes, 2019’s Super Bowl brought in an estimated $6 billion in worldwide betting. March Madness, according to the American Gaming Association, brought in $8.5 billion.
For the last year, Ohio has been going back-and-forth with two bills that could make sports betting legal in the buckeye state.
“The more opportunities there are to gamble, the more people will do it,” Longmeier said. “And, while most people don’t have a problem, we know some people will and the more ability you have to play, the more problems that will come.”
Longmeier and Jones applaud lawmakers for taking their time on the matter, as well as the possibility of having a portion of revenue going towards addiction treatment services.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s office released a statement to 10TV, last week, regarding sports betting that says:
“The Governor believes sports gaming is coming to Ohio. His preference is that the general assembly establish regulations as opposed to a special interest ballot initiative. Our office remains engaged with the general assembly as they continue deliberations.”
If you or someone you know is having trouble with gambling, you can call the Gambling Awareness and Prevention helpline at 1-800-589-9966.
You can also contact the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, here.