Market to launch January 1

Ohio health experts prepare to fight problem gambling as sports betting launch date nears

Reading time 1:54 min

Less than two weeks away from the launch of legal sports betting in Ohio, gambling addiction counselors are getting ready to help problem gamblers.

There are currently a handful of advertisements for different sports betting apps, urging people to sign up before January 1. Bruce Jones, the administrative coordinator for Maryhaven’s Gambling Intervention program, says he has seen them as well. 

“It’s dangling that little golden carrot in front of your face to keep you going, but it’s business, I recognize that. But for the gambler, it’s a trigger,” Spectrum News 1 reported. 

Even though betting on sports does not technically start until the new year, Jones said he is already helping people with gambling addiction and related issues. “Just because it’s going to be more accessible usually leads to more possibilities for the addiction," he said.

Clinicians across the Buckeye State are getting ready. Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said they have been preparing "for years," doubling the number of training opportunities so more addiction counselors have the expertise in gambling issues.

“Not only do we think we’re prepared to tackle addictions that may come out and treat that population, but we have strong prevention measures to make sure we can stop them before they start,” he said, as reported by the cited source.

To those that choose to gamble, Jones recommended having a budget and sticking to it. He also said to know the warning signs, behavior change being one of them. “We’re not against gambling, but we want to be there for resources for people when it does become problematic,” Jones stated. 

The New Year marks the start of this multi-million dollar market in the state, which will permit sports gaming online, at casinos and sports arenas as well as permitted bars and restaurants, opening up a new form of gambling to new demographics. The Ohio Casino Control Commission is expecting millions in new tax revenue for the state.

But to Chris Tuell, the Clinical Director of Addiction Services at the Lindner Center of HOPE, the biggest impact of legalizing sports betting will probably be its accessibility. Instead of going to a casino or racino, betters can gamble at arenas, bars and restaurants, and anywhere they can get a cellphone signal. 

“It brings it into the home. We know wherever there’s more accessibility there’s more problematic use,” Tuell said, as reported by NBC4

According to the Ohio Department of Mental Health Addiction Services, there are about 264,000 adults and 38,000 adolescents with problem gambling behaviors, and Tuell expects that number to rise as sports betting takes off. 

Tuell acknowledges most people who will engage in sports betting across Ohio will not develop problem gambling habits, but for those who do, he said it is important to understand what it looks like, how harmful it can be, and where people can go for help.

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