Every five years, the Ohio Casino Control Commission conducts a Gambling Prevalence Survey to follow gambling behavior among adults. The 2022 survey will be the third in the state’s 10-year casino gambling history.
The first survey, completed in 2012 before casino gaming went live, established a baseline to track in future studies. Primary focus areas include the rate at which Ohioans gamble, their preferred methods, and identifying people who are “at-risk” and “high-risk” for problem gambling.
In 2017, the OCCC conducted its second responsible gambling in Ohio study using the same methodology. The upcoming survey will bring about the third set of data points that will be valuable in identifying trends in Ohioans’ gambling behaviors. It will also serve as its own baseline for Ohio sports betting, which is set to go live on Jan. 1.
What we already know about gambling prevalence in Ohio
Ohio’s casinos have been open for a decade, and the industry has grown considerably throughout that time.
Derek Longmeier, executive director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, told PlayOhio that a growing industry has led to a greater number of Ohioans gambling. With that increase, at-risk and problematic gambling numbers have also grown. In fact, numbers nearly doubled from 2012 to 2017.
At 0.9%, Ohio’s percentage of adults estimated to be problem gamblers was below the 2017 national average of 2.2%.
What will findings from 2022 study show?
This year’s findings may be the most important, as they bring the third set of data points that can help identify trends from the first two studies. With sports betting beginning soon, the findings will be crucial in ensuring responsible gaming moving forward.
- Ten years ago, 41% of the population identified as non-gamblers. That number dropped to 25% in 2017. In 2022, are even more adults gambling now compared to five years ago?
- Five years ago, one in 10 Ohioans were at risk for problem gambling. What will that number be now?
- What stance will the state take on problem gambling as it relates to sports betting? Nationally, one in four players are at risk for problem gambling with sports betting and casino/racino gambling. With sports betting set to launch in Ohio, will that number go up in five years?
- What other trends will be seen concerning minorities, education level and employment status in at-risk populations? Ohio does not plan to commission a disparity study ahead of launch that might identify areas of discrimination or disadvantage. Such a study could provide valuable information to use in conjunction with other problem gambling efforts, especially among at-risk minority populations.
How will sports betting affect gambling prevalence?
Mobile sports betting will bring about an entirely new segment of Ohio’s gambling population that otherwise would not have taken part in lottery, stocks or casino gaming. Because of this, Ohio’s gaming industry should continue to grow as it has in its first 10 years.
This growth, however, will be sustainable only if Ohioans take responsible gaming seriously.
Longmeier called the one-in-four statistic for potential problem bettors “very concerning.” He added that in addition to the gambling prevalence studies done every five years, it might be beneficial to do smaller, interim studies specific to sports betting, depending on the findings of the 2022 survey.
Universities may utilize data for studies to provide solutions
Universities throughout the state could use the survey and the data that comes from it.
Ohio State University is the vendor conducting the Gambling Prevalence Survey. Ohio House Bill 29 allows all state universities to request anonymized sports gaming data for the following purposes:
- Ensuring the integrity of sports gaming
- Improving state-funded services related to responsible gambling and problem gambling
On a nationwide scale, gambling is still in its infancy. Proactive efforts such as these will prove invaluable over the next five to 10 years as the industry matures. It should show how to sustain a balanced, healthy and responsible gaming economy.
Other states are not following Ohio’s lead
At the very minimum, Ohio’s endeavors to understand its population’s gambling behaviors are admirable. It’s more than other states are doing.
California’s state auditor recently released a report highlighting how little California has spent on its problem gambling programs. The state has spent just $9 million annually. Even worse, the report said the money spent has shown no actual improvements.
The $9 million annual budget is less than California spends annually on tobacco, alcohol and cannabis education. With sports betting on the ballot next month, billions of dollars could be wagered every month in the state. Unfortunately, the audit fails to identify how many Californians may be dealing with gambling addictions. That is inexcusable and downright irresponsible for a state with over 60 casinos.
Gambling disorders are a real-world problem, and ignoring them will not make them disappear. Studies such as the Ohio prevalence survey will pave the way for ways address issues and find solutions.
Responsible gambling solutions in Ohio
Ohio has numerous support options for responsible gambling in Ohio, including Ohio for Responsible Gaming. This site pools resources from other state agencies, including the OCCC, Ohio Lottery Commission, Ohio State Racing Commission and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Various initiatives exist statewide, including Change the Game Ohio, Get Set Before You Bet and Keep It Fun Ohio.
You can also contact the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling. NCPG offers 24/7 chat support on its website, and you can reach its hotline at 800-522-4700.