With sports betting set to go live in Ohio on Jan. 1, the state is making changes to its Voluntary Exclusion Program, rebranding the initiative as “Time Out Ohio” for marketing purposes.
The statewide voluntary exclusion program, a responsible gambling initiative administered jointly by the Ohio Lottery Commission and the Ohio Casino Control Commission, currently lets anyone voluntarily ban themselves from entering Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos.
By the end of the year, the Ohio voluntary exclusion program will include all retail and online sports betting outlets. And, for the first time, those wishing to participate in the program will be able to opt into it online.
Rebranding effort is an effort to reach a wider audience
On Dec. 5, the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio hosted a webinar titled “Get Familiar: Time Out Ohio,” during which officials from the Ohio Casino Control Commission and the Ohio Lottery Commission discussed the expansion of the Ohio voluntary exclusion program and shared a look at the forthcoming TimeOutOhio.com website.
The webinar was the fifth and final installment in a responsible gambling series presented by PGNO called “Ready, Get Set, Go: A Journey Toward Responsible Sports Betting in Ohio.” The series was a continuing education opportunity for Ohio professionals in the field of problem gambling addiction and prevention, and dozens of representatives from various organizations and communities across the state attended.
The Dec. 5 webinar featured Cory Brown, Manager of Problem Gambling Services at the OCCC, and Susan Diamond, Responsible Gambling Program Coordinator at the Ohio Lottery.
Though legally still known as the Ohio Voluntary Exclusion Program, Brown said that the rebranding to Time Out Ohio was designed to reach more people:
“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.’”
Time Out Ohio website to go live before the end of the year
Previously, those who wanted to participate in the Ohio voluntary exclusion program had to enroll in person at one of the state’s casinos or racinos, or at the OCCC central office in Columbus. Participants who signed up to be disallowed from these betting establishments for one year or five years (the third choice is to be excluded for life) also had to show up in person (or mail in forms) after serving the minimum duration of the term for removal from the program.
Now, voluntary participants will be able to enroll in the voluntary exclusion program and apply for removal from the program through the portal at TimeOutOhio.com.
The Lottery’s Susan Diamond said the website was still being worked on but would be up and available for use by Dec. 31 (at the latest), the day before sports betting goes live across Ohio.
With the new system, participants agree to exclusion from the 11 Ohio casino/racino properties, as well as all online sportsbooks and retail sportsbooks.
“This really is going to lessen some barriers to entry (for the Ohio VEP),” Brown said, noting that moving the process online helps “meet (online sports bettors) where they are.”
“An individual may be a lot less likely to engage if they have to go to a property to enroll. So we’re hoping the online enrollment will really be useful for individuals who otherwise would not engage in the program.”
Voluntary exclusion program registration process can soon be done completely online
The process to enroll for the new Ohio voluntary exclusion program online is fairly simple, but it’s a little more involved than just filling out a few fields on the website.
Those interested in enrolling via TimeOutOhio.com are first required to watch, in full, a five-minute video about what the program entails, then attest that they understand what is involved in participating in the voluntary exclusion program.
The user then creates an account, which they’ll be able to use to return to the site to review the terms of the agreement and keep track of when they will be eligible for removal.
To apply for the program on the site, the potential participant must be using a device with a camera. This is used to help the participant pass the required identity check.
The camera is first used to scan the user’s valid ID, which can be a driver’s license, state ID, passport, permanent resident card or non-citizen travel document. Then the user must position themselves in the center of the frame to be photographed, moving their head from left to right to obtain a complete “live photo” of their face.
If they pass the identity check, participants then fill out an application with their personal information, including their address, date of birth and social security number. The user also must select the desired duration of their voluntary exclusion — one year, five years or lifetime — and agree to all terms of the program agreement.
TimeOutOhio.com also features an extensive FAQ section about the program, downloadable problem/responsible gambling self-help workbooks and extensive information on problem gambling treatment resources across Ohio.
Ohio’s voluntary exclusion program was created a decade ago
The Ohio voluntary exclusion program began in 2012, right around the time Ohio’s first casinos opened. In its first year of operation, more than 160 people applied for the program.
In 2019, the OCCC teamed up with the Ohio Lottery (which controls the machines used at racinos) to extend the program to include all 11 casino/racino facilities in the state.
As of October 2022, more than 7,000 people had used Ohio’s voluntary exclusion program since its inception. There were 4,506 people actively enrolled as of October.
Those currently enrolled in Ohio’s VEP had to agree to the following:
- Agree to not enter an Ohio casino/racino facility
- Allow your name to be included on a list of people excluded from all Ohio casino/racino facilities
- Acknowledge that Ohio casino/racino operators will not be allowed to market to you
- Agree that an Ohio casino/racino operator will not cash a check or extend credit to you
When sports betting goes live in 2023, those registering for the VEP will be blocked from using online sportsbooks in Ohio and will have to follow the above guidelines when it comes to Ohio’s retail sportsbooks.
Those who are enrolled in the program and are caught violating the terms of the agreement by entering a casino/racino/sportsbook can face consequences. If caught on the premises, participants can be forced to forfeit any gambling winnings (including chips, jackpots, slot credits and prizes), which are seized and donated to Ohio problem gambling and addiction services.
At the discretion of the venue, voluntary exclusion program participants can also be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing.