By Jonathan Jackson
Ohio’s problem gambling hotline is experiencing an enormous surge in calls since the start of the year when sports gambling was legalized in the state.
“We had just under 700 calls in December of 2022, and then comparing that to just a month later, to over 1,500, that certainly sports betting has a big impact,” said Derek Longmeier, executive director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.
With 1,500 calls received in January, Longmeier said that is more than triple the number of calls the gambling problem hotline received in January of last year. He believes this is a direct result of sports betting now being legal in Ohio, due to easy access to online apps and gambling sites.
“Looking at just the early numbers, Ohio is a big sports betting market, and so while I think there’s going to be a lot to learn, knowing what those impacts will be is still unclear,” said Longmeier. But what is clear according to local addiction counselors, is that demand for their services is going up.
“I usually see maybe 15, 20… well now I’m seeing about 30 to 40,” said Bruce Jones, administrative coordinator of Maryhaven Gambling Intervention Program.
Jones’ number of clients has more than doubled since sports betting became legal and explained that the demographic for people seeking treatment has also become younger. “I’m seeing a lot more younger folks coming in, mainly between mid-20’s, mid-30’s, but then I’m getting some folks coming in that are casino gamblers, and what’s really been surprising are the amount of people doing the online,” said Jones.
However, he urges anyone who is struggling to seek help right away. “Sometimes we might not even talk about gambling,” said Jones. “How are you doing today? Do you have any thoughts of harming yourself? I say it’s a symptom of something else that’s going on in someone’s life.”
On Thursday, the Problem Gambling Network will host a sports betting panel with statewide experts on preventing gambling addiction in Ohio.
Do you believe you or a loved one has a gambling problem? Click here for a list of resources, or call the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline at 1 (800) 589-9966. You can also contact Maryhaven via its website by clicking here.