By Jonathan Jackson
For the first time, online sports betting is now legal in Ohio, and since its launch at the start of the year, has skyrocketed with more than 11.3 million transactions recorded over New Year’s weekend.
This puts Ohio over every other state including New York for the most online bets placed.
“It will be good mostly for the state of Ohio, and the tax coffers, as well as locally,” said Don DePerro, president and CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
DePerro said he looks forward to the growth that sports betting could have on the local economy; more specifically, the tax implications that will affect the state and the city of Columbus.
“For the residents who do make money off of this, and will be taxed on that taxable income, that money will flow back into the communities where they live,” he said.
However, with that potential economic boon comes another side effect; concerns over gambling addiction, which affects an estimated 250,000 Ohioans.
“We’re in uncharted waters; it’s almost like the wild, wild west,” said Bruce Jones, administrative coordinator for Maryhaven Gambling Intervention Program.
Jones believes the risks of gambling addiction could increase exponentially in the state now that online sports betting is legal.
“It’s going to be so accessible on your phone, computer, you know?” Jones said. “I’ve seen a lot of people that have had a sports betting problem prior to it becoming legal, and it’s just so easy, you know, if you’re at work, you just get on your phone for a little bit and you’ve placed a bet.”
Over the past decade, Jones said Maryhaven has helped close to 1,000 people in Ohio overcome their addiction but explains there are still so many more people in need.
Meanwhile, business leaders like DePerro said that while sports betting is legal, it’s an industry they’re advising people to engage in at their own risk.
“You know, I strongly encourage our neighbors, and our friends, and the members of our community who engage in this to be very careful,” he said.
It’s a message echoed by Jones.
“Gambling is a hidden disorder,” he said. “I can’t see it in your eyes, smell it on your breath, or see it in a urine screen. So by the time people do come for help, they’ve lost jobs, relationships, housing, money, payday loan, credit card, car to a title loan place.”
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.