Ohioans are utilizing the state’s recently rebranded voluntary exclusion program in high numbers during the early days of sports betting in the state.
A total of 150 people have signed up through Time Out Ohio in order to voluntarily ban themselves from the state’s casinos, racinos and sports betting, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission. That’s on top of the 4,600 Ohioans who were enrolled in the program when it only applied to casinos and racinos.
The OCCC and Ohio Lottery Commission rebranded the voluntary exclusion program as part of the state’s responsible gambling efforts. They also made it available online before the Ohio sports betting start date of Jan. 1.
Nearly 5,000 Ohioans take a ‘time out’ from gambling
The Time Out Ohio program is administered through a partnership between the OCCC and Lottery. The program allows Ohioans to sign up for a ban of either one year, five years or their lifetime.
Once you voluntarily put your name on the list, you cannot get it removed before your chosen time frame ends. Those who self-impose a ban and then visit a casino, racino or participate in sports betting can be subject to trespassing charges.
The 4,600 residents on the “legacy” voluntary exclusion list were not automatically banned from sports betting when it went live, but they have the option to enroll in Time Out Ohio.
OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler recognized the program’s success during the commission’s Feb. 15 meeting. Schuler noted that making the program available online was an important step.
“Now that we’re mobile with sports gaming, it was the right time to go online,” Schuler said. “We’ll see how those numbers build out.”
Schuler also noted that Ohio was able to put $54 million toward responsible gambling education, prevention and treatment programs through taxes on casino revenue.
The first month of sports betting taxes will be reported later this month, and some of that money is earmarked for responsible gambling as well.
Time Out Ohio rebranded to shift away from ‘exclusion’
Last year, the OCCC and Lottery decided to rebrand the voluntary exclusion initiative, in part due to the “stigma” of exclusion. They launched the new Time Out Ohio marketing campaign in December.
During a Dec. 5 webinar hosted by the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, Cory Brown, manager of problem gambling services at the OCCC, said:
“We are attempting to shift away from using the word ‘exclusion.’ We’ve heard here recently how the word can certainly be a deterrent for individuals engaging with our program, so we have rebranded it as ‘Time Out Ohio.’”
Making the program available online was a big deal. Previously, anyone who wanted to sign up for voluntary exclusion had to enroll in person at a casino, racino, or the OCCC office in Columbus. Now participants can enroll and apply for removal through an online portal at TimeOutOhio.com.
Ohio also launched an advertising campaign in late December called “Pause Before You Play.”
The awareness initiative was designed to encourage responsible gambling habits and reminded bettors to have a plan for betting responsibly before diving in.
Sports betting spurs expected uptick in calls to problem gambling hotline
With the launch of sports betting on Jan. 1, there was an expected increase in calls to the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline.
According to the OCCC, there were more calls to the hotline during the first 10 days of January than during the entire month of January last year.
Some of the calls were from bettors asking technical questions about sportsbooks and betting apps. But most were people seeking help or treatment for gambling issues.
Ohio introduced a new initiative called the warm transfer program that allows operators to connect individuals to trained counselors any time. Previously, there were no trained specialists available outside business hours.
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