Sports betting will soon be legal in Ohio. With pieces falling into place for a January 2023 launch, some are concerned about the potential for an increase in problem gambling in Ohio.
March 2022 volume for Ohio’s problem gambling helpline
The National Council on Problem Gambling dedicates March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Four Ohio state agencies are working together as part of an initiative called Ohio for Responsible Gambling to prevent and treat problem gambling. They are the Ohio Lottery Commission, the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the Ohio State Racing Commission, and the Ohio Department of Mental Health.
The group in March released a report on the month’s trends when it came to problem gambling in the state.
The report included the number of calls to Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline from the top 15 counties in the state. The four counties with the most calls were:
- Montgomery County: 151 calls
- Butler County: 67 calls
- Clark County: 40 calls
- Warren County: 38 calls
Most callers stated that their gambling method of choice was slot machines. Lottery ticket purchases and playing table games at casinos ranked second and third.
Ohio’s problem gambling helpline expecting high volume after Ohio sports betting launch
The helpline reported an increase in overall calls for the fifth straight year in 2021. With the legalization of sports betting in Ohio, helpline counselors are preparing for even more calls.
According to a 2017 Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services survey, 25% of those who participate in sports betting are at risk when it comes to problem gambling.
The same survey found that only one in 10 gamblers outside of sports bettors are at risk.
“The sports bettor is unique,” said Scott Anderson, a problem gambling specialist at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services.
Anderson described current gamblers in Ohio as younger, unmarried, and having lower education and income levels.
“The sport bettor was the exact opposite of that,” he said. Anderson says sports bettors tend to be older and have higher education and income levels.
Anderson says studies have shown problem gambling risks doubled with the addition of physical casinos in Ohio. He believes the “new crop” of sports bettors will mean even higher instances of problem gambling in the state.
The immediate accessibility of online and mobile sportsbooks is a major cause.
“We have so much access to whatever it is (that) we do too much of,” he said. “It’s in your hand all the time. It’s in your pocket all the time. You’re going to have a painless way to hit ‘yes, yes, yes’ all the time.”
How Ohio plans to combat problem gambling in sports betting
Anderson said officials in Ohio have reached out to neighboring states that have already launched sports wagering.
“We’ve listened to what problems they’ve found,” he said.
Ohio will expand its specialties in social work training to prepare for a possible uptick in problem gambling following the launch of sports betting. The state’s department of mental health added credentials specific to problem gambling.
“We’re bringing in sports-specific experts to Ohio,” says Anderson.
The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio is a nonprofit that works hand in hand with state agencies to provide treatment for problem gambling. Executive Director Derek Longmeier hopes that sports betting apps will work with the network to combat addiction.
Longmeier hopes sports betting apps will display the state’s helpline information when spending limits are exceeded.
State agencies will also do their part to combat the growth of problem gambling in Ohio.
The state maintains a voluntary exclusion list. Those who want to be banned from Ohio gambling facilities may join the list for a predetermined amount of time.
According to the Ohio for Responsible Gambling report, 882 people have added themselves to the list since the beginning of fiscal 2021. The list includes more than 6,200 people since its creation in 2012.
“There’s a difference between responsible entertainment and potentially destructive behavior,” said Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson, prevention chief of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addictions Services. “Most Ohioans aren’t aware of how many people are at risk in their communities.”
Casinos in Ohio have their own similar lists, and those apply to each casino’s parent company properties worldwide.
What sports betting in Ohio will look like
According to the Ohio sports betting legislation, wagers will be permitted on professional sports and also on collegiate level sports and esports. Wagers on horse races will still need to be made at racetracks and pari-mutual betting establishments.
When it comes to where and how bets will be placed, there will be three types of Ohio sports betting licenses available.
Type A licenses: Online sportsbooks
Established gambling organizations, like casinos or professional sports teams, can apply for an online sports betting license. These organizations will most likely operate in conjunction with a professional sportsbook.
Type B licenses: Brick and mortar betting facilities
The state will issue licenses for retail sportsbooks, but only a maximum of 40. Ohio will restrict the number of physical sportsbooks in each county depending on population.
These facilities will have betting windows and terminals where bettors can place their wagers.
Type C licenses: Betting kiosks for liquor license holders
A bar, restaurant, or even a grocery store can apply for this license as long as they already have a class D liquor license.
While there is no limit on the number of these licenses issued in the state, bettors are limited in the amount they can bet at the kiosks every week.
Taxing Ohio sports betting revenue
Early estimates for sports betting revenue show the industry pulling in roughly $1 billion in the first year. Sports betting in Ohio could be a $3 billion industry within a few years.
The sports wagering legislation includes a tax of 10% on net revenue, which could be close to $24 million over the state’s first fiscal year. Ninety-eight percent of tax revenue will go to the state’s public and private education funds. Half of those funds will go toward schools’ extracurricular activities.
The remaining 2% of tax on sports betting revenue will go to programs that combat problem gambling in Ohio. Anderson wonders if that will be enough for the expected surge of problem gambling.
“The honest answer is we don’t know how much money it’s going to take (in) or what we’ll see,” he said. “We just know that we’re doing everything proactively we can ahead of it.”