Now is the time for problem gambling professionals and addiction specialists across Ohio to reach out to the media in their communities, according to the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.
The PGNO on Nov. 14 presented a webinar called “Get the Word Out: Engage Your Local Media,” during which experts shared tips for engaging the media in order to increase coverage and raise awareness about the potential problems that can arise once Ohio sports betting goes live on Jan. 1, 2023.
The webinar was the latest in a responsible gambling series presented by PGNO called “Ready, Get Set, Go: A Journey Toward Responsible Sports Betting in Ohio.”
A continuing education opportunity for professionals in the state, previous webinars in the series have featured various guest speakers, including regulators from the Ohio Casino Control Commission and the Ohio Lottery Commission, who have provided a look at consumer protections and the wide array of problem gambling resources available in the Buckeye State.
Spreading the word about Ohio problem gambling risks
For the “Get the Word Out” webinar, the speakers were Derek Longmeier, executive director of PGNO, and Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson, chief of problem gambling services in the Office of Prevention and Wellness for Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Frohnapfel-Hasson and Longmeier offered strategies for approaching media outlets and piquing their interest enough that they see the value in covering problem gambling issues and resources.
“We have to be ready for (legalized sports betting),” Frohnapfel-Hasson said. “We want to make everybody across the state aware of what this means.”
Talking points to drum up media interest
The following talking points/data points were offered to help anyone attempting to pitch a story on problem gambling to media ahead of the sports betting launch:
- In 2017, one in 10 Ohians were at risk for problem gambling, including one in four who wagered on sports — more than all other forms of gambling.
- At-risk and problem gambling prevalence was highest among males ages 18-44 — also the most at-risk for a problem with sports betting.
- Sixteen percent of those who gambled wagered on sports, and with legal sports gambling, access, availability, acceptability, and participation are expected to increase.
Frohnapfel-Hasson said that when dealing with local media, it’s good to show as directly as possible what effect problem gambling has — or will have — on their own community. She said OhioMHAS and PGNO have localized data to share for the different counties in the state.
Media interest in behavioral health issues is high
Frohnapfel-Hasson said that media outlets, with the general increased coverage of mental health issues in recent years, seem more receptive to covering problem gambling issues nowadays, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“Everybody is talking about behavioral health, everybody’s talking about mental health, about depression,” she said. “What’s one of the ways that people self-medicate? They gamble. Across the ages, gambling is one of those coping mechanisms. It has appeal for a lot of audiences.”
Frohnapfel-Hasson pointed to useful statistics that say that 20% of at-risk problem gamblers are under a doctor’s care due to stress and more than 26% reported having serious depression.
Frohnapfel-Hasson also noted that problem gambling might be appealing to local TV news broadcasts, particularly during “sweeps week,” when stations might lean toward more “salacious” things to cover in an attempt to draw more viewers and appeal to advertisers.
“Gambling, drugs, alcohol, sex — it’s kind of what they grab for sweeps week because people will pay attention. The sexy stories.”
Sharing Ohio problem gambling resources is also key in media engagement
The speakers also stressed the importance of sharing in any media coverage the resources available for problem gamblers.
Those resources — as well as responsible gambling resources for those who may be at risk of developing a problem — have been front and center in the lead-up to the statewide sports betting launch. Regulators in Ohio have been working with online operators, retail sportsbooks, casinos and other businesses hosting sports betting kiosks to make sure they have responsible gambling plans in place. And online sportsbooks have shown their dedication to spotlighting responsible gambling resources.
The state of Ohio likewise has resources in place for problem gambling assistance.
The Ohio Lottery Commission, the Ohio State Racing Commission, the Ohio Casino Control Commission, and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services collaborate on the Ohio for Responsible Gambling initiative, which offers numerous tips and resources online. That includes the more sports betting-specific resources available as part of the state’s Get Set Before You Bet campaign and its Pause Before You Play micro-campaign.