By Cierra Johnson
Legalized sports betting in Ohio starts in January, and experts in gambling addiction are hoping to draw attention to an increasing number of young people taking part.
Experts said the act of gambling can begin young, with activities that mimic the act being embedded into popular video games. One gambling counselor said communication with children is crucial as legalized sports gambling gets closer to the palm of your hand.
“It’s proven from the minute we open the casinos, that it’s in our backyard now, so yeah, it’s going to be more accessible,” said Maryhaven certified gambling counselor Bruce Jones.
Jones said as the state inches closer to legalizing sports betting, it’s important to address the prevalence of gambling not only with those legally allowed to do so, but with Ohio’s youth as well.
“I’m actually seeing an 18-year-old right now, that student here in Ohio, coming in with a good history of gambling,” Jones said.
According to data gathered by the National Council on Problem Gambling, between 60% and 80% of high school students report having gambled for money in the past year. Of those, 4% to 6% of high school students are considered addicted to gambling. The study concluded the pandemic and easy access to gambling have heightened risks for young adults.
Jones said the habits can start in an unlikely source – video games. Many popular games feature a loot box where players can pay real money to achieve items to help them advance in the games, a concept that can often be a slippery slope.
“You know, that’s a definition of gambling,” Jones said. “Anytime you put something you value on a chance of getting something more.”
So how does one prevent addiction among children? Jones said communication is key, discussing gambling and the risks that come with it, and he said it’s also crucial to be aware of the signs of a problem.
“Follow the money,” he said. “If they are borrowing money away from the home or whatever for you know, be isolating more. And they brag about their wins, not so much their losses.”
Anyone who thinks they have a problem with gambling can contact the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio by clicking here or calling 800-589-9966.