A Fine Time in Ohio

By: Bruce Jones

Before sports betting in Ohio hit its first weekend, four different operators were all facing hefty fines, totaling more than $1 million from the Ohio Casino Control Commission.

The reason for these fines: misleading promotions and advertising targeting those under the age of 21.

Our own CEO, Oyauma Garrison, penned a guest column in the Columbus Dispatch recently, calling for operators to work with the state and agencies like Maryhaven to offer needed protections. It appears that the OCCC is prepared to uphold their end of this agreement.

And, while the fines make headlines, it’s the group they’re targeting that’s the real story. Young men, ages 18-25, stand at the highest risk of getting hooked on gambling. Natural brain development delays their ability to comprehend and predict long-term consequences, something noted in our blog back in 2018.

The operators know this too, and it’s why they’re willing to risk fines and other punishments to get in front of that audience.

Don’t just take our word for it. As Derek Longmeier of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio noted, “Advertising to those that are underage is illegal for a reason. Not only are they legally not allowed to gamble – evidence has shown young adults are most at risk of developing a sports betting problem. The standards outlined by the commission are the minimum that should be done to protect Ohioans. For an industry that claims to promote responsible gambling, they are not heeding their own guidance.”

NBC4 discussed the dangers of youth gambling with me back in October. We’ve also devoted plenty of space, time and, yes, even counseling sessions to things like gaming disorder and loot boxes – further proof that young people are the target.

When it comes to sports betting, I’ve had multiple college-age clients gamble away tuition dollars, and I routinely talk with parents who are worried about their kid’s habits, often high school age. And this was before legal operations started here in Ohio.

In one of those aforementioned blogs, a wise, slightly younger man said: “Simply put, we’re breeding young gamblers.” It’s as true now as it was then, maybe even more so. And if we don’t all get on board with doing something to stop it, the problem will be much worse than a few fines.

Our experts are here to help both the gambler and those who love someone who may gamble too much. Call 614-324-5425 or go to maryhaven.com/gambling for more information.

About the Author

Bruce Jones

Administrative Coordinator LSW, LCDC III, NCGC II

Bruce is a Licensed Social Worker (LSW) and a Nationally-Certified Gambling Counselor Level II who has worked for Maryhaven since 2000. He saw the need for gambling services in Central Ohio in 2009 and asked Maryhaven to apply for a private grant from the Columbus Foundation to target help to those struggling with gambling addiction. The state then supplied funding after his vision was verified with the amount of clients seeking services that first year and Bruce has been working with individuals, family members, and communities ever since.


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