COLUMBUS, Ohio — As sports betting heads toward legalization in Ohio, the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio is raising concerns that legalized sports betting will increase instances of gambling addiction in the state.
On Wednesday, legislators overwhelmingly supported a bill that will legalize sports betting on professional and collegiate sports. The bill now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk, who said earlier this year that it would be “inevitable” that sports gambling would become legal in Ohio.
"Obviously, there were a lot of changes that came out of conference committee. Too early to comment definitively,” a spokesperson for DeWine told Spectrum News on Wednesday.
The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio said that while most who bet on sports won’t experience issues, many will be “at risk of developing a gambling problem." The group said that based on its research, 1-in-4 sports bettors were at risk.
“Based on trends from our neighboring states who have legalized sports betting, we can anticipate an increase in demand for problem gambling treatment and support services as more Ohioans are impacted,” said Derek Longmeier, executive director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.
The bill, if signed by DeWine, would offer sports gaming online, at sports gaming facilities and through terminals located in bars and restaurants.
The bill would allow betting on any professional or collegiate sport, any Olympic or international sports competition event, any motor race, any horse race or any other special event the Ohio Casino Control Commission authorizes. The law would generally prohibit betting on high school sports.
Gaming in the state has gained popularity since four casinos opened in Ohio in 2012.
Casino and racino gaming had a massive increase in revenue this year. According to data from the Ohio Casino Control Commission, revenue from Ohio’s four main casinos has already broken a yearly record. Through November, Ohio’s four casinos have garnered $899 million in revenue, breaking 2019’s 12-month figure of $850 million.
Racino revenue has already topped $788 million throughout the state, according to the Ohio Lottery, topping 2019 figures of $700 million.
Longmeier reminds the public that there are resources for gamblers facing addiction.
“Problem gambling treatment is free or low-cost to Ohioans. The Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline is available 24/7 at 1-800-589-9966 and can connect you with resources and treatment options,” said Longmeier.