At-Risk & Problem Gambling Has Grown 350% Since Ohio Casinos Were Built

Written By Steve Schult on October 19, 2023
A picture of an upward slanted graph for a story about the increase in at-risk gambling rates since Ohio casino legalization.

Since casinos were legalized in Ohio, the number of at-risk and problem gamblers in the state has nearly quadrupled.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services gave a presentation on problem gambling Wednesday morning at the Ohio Casino Control Commission meeting. The presentation was about the results of a responsible gambling survey.

Respondents answered nine questions about their gambling habits over the last year. They could answer “never,” “sometimes,” “most of the time” or “almost always” to every question.

They receive between up between 0 and 3 points for every answer. A score between 1-7 indicates varying levels of at-risk gamblers. A score of eight points or more equates to problem gamblers.

Nearly 20% of Ohioans are considered at-risk gamblers

The survey showed that in 2022, 19.8% of respondents were considered at-risk gamblers. On the other hand, 17.2% were not gamblers at all and the remaining 63% were non-problem gamblers.

The same survey was conducted in 2012 and 2017. Ohio legalized casinos in 2009. However, the first one didn’t open until 2012. In 2012, only 5.7% of the population demonstrated the habits of an at-risk bettor. From 2012 to 2022, that’s a 347.4% jump.

That number jumped to 10.3% in 2017 before 19.8% last year. The figure represents low-risk, moderate-risk and problem gamblers. The study found about 2.8% of Ohio gamblers were problem bettors.

The inverse was also true. The non-gambler percentage of the population decreased over time. It was 41.4% in 2012, 25.1% in 2017 and 17.2% in 2022.

In other words, as casinos became more common and less stigmatized, more people became problem bettors. When gambling becomes more mainstream, more people partake. Thus, the number of problem gamblers increases.

As a result, the state and operators need to provide problem gambling resources to its citizens and customers.

Sports betting was incredibly popular … before it was legal

The survey showed that the two most popular forms of gambling were the lottery and sports betting. Nearly 50% of Ohioans played lottery games in the last 12 months. And 31.1% bet on sports.

But the survey was conducted in 2022. Legal sports betting launched at the start of 2023. Therefore, nearly one-third of respondents were betting on sports with unregulated or offshore sportsbooks.

It’s likely a much higher percentage than that now that there are 20 Ohio online sportsbooks and the stigma of it being illegal is completely gone.

Casino gaming was the third most common form of gambling, with 27.1% saying they played table games or slot machines in the last month.

Problem gamblers have more negative health effects

The presentation wrapped up with a list of the health deficiencies most problem gamblers endure.

Problem bettors have higher rates of stress, depression and alcohol and drug abuse than non-gamblers and at-risk gamblers.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Steve Schult

The managing editor for PlayOhio and several other Catena Media sites, Steve stays on top of all things related to the national gaming industry. He is also a veteran of the gambling world. The native New Yorker started covering high-stakes tournaments in 2009 for some of poker’s most prominent media outlets before adding the broader U.S. gaming market to his beat in 2018.

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