Calls To Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline Increased 227% From Last January 

Written By Mike Breen on March 10, 2023
Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline

Calls to Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline increased 227% from January 2022 to January 2023.

That’s according to the annual report on helpline calls from the Ohio for Responsible Gambling organization, released recently to coincide with Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

It was the sixth-consecutive year that the number of calls to the helpline — 800-589-9966 — increased.

The responsible gambling report also featured details on an increase in calls to the Problem Gambling Helpline in January 2023, the first month of legal sports betting in Ohio.

There were 456 calls to the helpline in January 2022. In January of this year, there were 1,492 calls.

January helpline calls increased 135% over December

According to the ORG reports, there was a 135% increase in helpline calls from December of 2022 to January of 2023.

Derek Longmeier, executive director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, says the increase in calls to the helpline was expected.

“We knew the numbers were going to increase,” Longmeier says. “While Ohio’s increase in calls for help matches other states that recently legalized sports betting, it’s still a wake-up call for people to take notice.”

The ORG report states that there were an average of 48 helpline calls each day this January, compared to an average of 20 calls per day in December of last year. In January of last year, the helpline averaged 15 calls per day.

The increase in calls for the first month of legalized sports betting in Ohio is in line with early reports that the helpline received more calls in the first 10 days of January 2023 than it had in the entire month of January 2022.

More younger people have been calling the helpline

Longmeier says that callers to the helpline are skewing younger and that the 18-34 age range is the fastest growing demographic among callers.

Of the 198 callers to Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline in January who reported their age, 91 of them were between 18-34 years old.

At the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio and Ohio for Responsible Gambling’s recent 20th-annual problem gambling convention, a group of faculty members from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio gave a presentation delving into prevention, treatment and early intervention strategies when dealing with college-age and younger individuals.

Miami U’s Sharon Custer told PlayOhio that she believes more research and resources are needed in the state to assist young people at risk for developing gambling problems. She said starting to address the issues earlier in a person’s life is important.

“Assuming high school students don’t gamble would be as naive as thinking they are also not partaking in alcohol, tobacco or other drugs,” Custer said. “Prevention science repeatedly shows that the more information we provide to young people and the more questions we answer for them, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors.”

Other demographic numbers from ORG report

Ohio for Responsible Gambling’s recent report on the Problem Gambling Helpline showed that, in January of this year, Cleveland was home to far more helpline callers than any other Ohio city. There were three times as many helpline calls from Cleveland as there were from Cincinnati and Columbus.

Other January statistics featured in ORG’s Problem Gambling Helpline report:

  • The top two reasons given when January helpline callers were asked what prompted them to seek help were financial problems and family problems.
  • Helpline callers that disclosed what type of gambling activity was the source of their problem cited daily fantasy sports (119 callers), casino slots (67), sports betting (49), lottery scratch-offs (38) and lottery games like Powerball (27).
  • Of the January helpline callers who reported the length of their gambling problem, around 67% percent said their problems had developed within the past 3 years. Thirty-two percent said their problem was less than a year old.
  • Of the January helpline callers that shared their gender, there were 242 females and 437 males.
  •  Cuyahoga County was the Ohio county that accounted for the most helpline calls. Cuyahoga’s 193 calls in January were followed by Franklin County (60), Hamilton County (51), Montgomery County (17) and Butler County (14).

Many factors in helpline call increase

In January, Jessica Franks, director of communications for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, told PlayOhio that, while part of the early increase in calls to the Problem Gambling Helpline were due to people misguidedly calling for help with technical issues with their sportsbook apps, “the majority have been individuals looking for information on resources or to connect directly with a trained counselor using our warm transfer program.”

ORG’s report cited a few other reasons for the increase:

“Some of the increased calls have been the result of two things: a planned major marketing push to raise awareness of the Problem Gambling Helpline prior to the legal launch of sports betting; and confusion caused by the gambling industry ads regarding ‘free’ money after bets are placed.”

Amanda Blackford, the Ohio Casino Control Commission’s director of operations and problem gambling services, says the uptick in helpline calls is also the result of the sheer ease and accessibility of sports betting in Ohio since January’s launch.

“Technology lets anyone bet anywhere with cell phone reception,” Blackford says. “The ability to place multiple bets in real-time with no safeguards can quickly lead to catastrophic losses.”

Ohio problem and responsible gambling resources plentiful

Ohio for Responsible Gambling is a collaborative effort between four state agencies: the Ohio Lottery Commission; the Ohio Casino Control Commission; the Ohio State Racing Commission; and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

ORG helms Get Set Before You Bet, an award-winning problem gambling education initiative. In late 2022, ORG launched an off-shoot campaign, Pause Before You Play, aimed at sharing tips and resources for good responsible gambling practices.

Besides the helpline, Ohio for Responsible Gambling and organizations like the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio also offer a wealth of resources for responsible gambling and problem gambling on their websites.

Ohio plans to use 2% of its sports betting tax revenue annually for the state’s Problem Sports Gaming Fund.

21+ and present in OH. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER

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Mike Breen

Mike Breen covers Ohio’s budding sports betting industry for PlayOhio, focusing on online sportsbooks and the state’s responsible gambling initiatives. He has over two decades of experience covering sports, news, music, arts and culture in Ohio.

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