As Legal Ohio Sports Betting Looms, Local RG Campaign Launches

Ohio for Responsible Gambling’s “Pause Before You Play” campaign will educate Ohioans on the dangers of problem gambling. Sports betting starts January 1.
December 29, 2022

It’s easy for people to place multiple bets in real-time, accelerating the chance for potentially catastrophic losses. Three days before Ohio launches regulated sports betting, Ohio for Responsible Gambling (ORG) kicked off a new program designed to educate the public about the dangers of problem gambling and to learn techniques in how to gamble responsibly.

ORG, a non-profit organization based in Cleveland, said its new “Pause Before You Play” initiative is a spinoff of its award-winning “Get Set Before You Bet” program. ORG’s responsible gaming partners include the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC), the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC), and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OHMAS).

Ohio is poised to become the 32nd state with regulated sports betting when it goes live on January 1, 2023. Ohio will be the 23rd state with real money online sports betting in the US.

Amanda Blackford, who serves as Director of the OCCC’s Operations and Problem Gambling Services (PGS), said the “Pause Before You Play” campaign would focus on several aspects of mobile sports betting that can be difficult for some people with a gambling problem — mainly the ease of which people will access real money sports betting in Ohio starting this Sunday.

In [other states with legal sports betting], we’ve seen higher interest & more struggles with problem gambling. We want people to have fun & be responsible. Bettors can place a wager “basically anywhere with cell phone reception,” Blackford said. That includes the state’s land-based casinos and digital terminals in bars — places that also have a liquor license, which could add another layer of issues for problem gamblers.

“The difference is it’s easy for people to place multiple bets in real time, accelerating the chance for potentially catastrophic losses,” ORG said in a statement Thursday. “It’s also much easier for people to conceal the amount they bet.”

Blackford concurred. “In other states that preceded Ohio in legalizing sports betting, we’ve seen higher interest and more struggles with problem gambling,” she said. “We want people to have fun and be responsible.”

Derek Longmeier — Executive Director of another non-profit, the Columbus-based Problem Gambling Network of Ohio — said the “Pause Before You Play” campaign is also focused on the early detection of problem gambling.

The challenges of problem gambling go far beyond the person placing a bet. “The challenges of problem gambling go far beyond the person placing a bet,” Longmeier said, adding that people with a gambling problem show no physical symptoms of having one. “Families, children, and businesses all face consequences with a person’s gambling addiction.”

According to the ORG, a 2017 study conducted by PGS found that 24% of casino gamblers were at the highest risk of either having or developing a gambling problem, while 24.3% of sports gamblers were also deemed to be at the highest risk.

The PGS study also found that nearly one in 10 people in the state who gamble either currently have or are at risk of developing a gambling problem. That equates to over 900,000 Ohioans, ORG said.

“The majority of Ohioans who gamble will stay within their limits,” Longmeier said. But he added, “as sports betting grows exponentially in 2023, it makes sense that we will see more challenges here in Ohio.”

Blackford cautioned that people with gambling problems were also at a higher risk of using drugs or alcohol and at greater danger for mental health conditions, including suicidal thoughts and ideations.

Learn more about Ohio sports betting.

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