LEWIS CENTER, Ohio — Joshua Grubbs is a clinical psychologist and associate professor at Bowling Green State University. 

He analyzes the habits of gamblers in Ohio and was one of the speakers on day one of the 20th annual Ohio Problem Gambling Conference. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Ohio Problem Gambling Conference has been held for the past 20 years

  • In January the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio received 1,500 calls for help 

  • Gambling experts say not to fall for the lure of "free bets" on sports betting apps 

“The big goal is to, you know, connect clinicians, people that are therapists and providers in the community — to the tools that they need to meet the needs of Ohioans who are dealing with problem gambling,” said Grubbs. 

Sports betting is Grubbs' primary area of research and, so far, he's seen an increase in need across the state for people concerned they may have a problem. 

He said to look out for these warning signs. 

“Is the person hiding it or lying about it? Have you ever found yourself chasing your losses? So you lost money, and then you came back with more money to try and win back the money you lost. That's always a bad sign,” said Grubbs. 

“The numbers that jump out to me are the increase in call volumes,” said associate director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, Michael Buzzelli. 

Buzzelli said calls to the gambling helpline have nearly tripled since sports betting became operational on Jan. 1. 

“Towards the end of 2022, we were at 600 calls a month and in January, we were at 1,500. So friends, family members, spouses, siblings, are calling for just information you know, I'm trying to get maybe help for my brother, my sister,” said Buzzelli. 

For Grubbs, his mission of educating and research will continue. 

He said at the end of the day, while gambling can be a fun way of connecting with other people or blowing off steam, watch out for free comps and incentives as a way to lure you in to playing. 

“Free drinks show up or free food shows up or they give you a hotel room for the night. And in sports betting we're seeing that, put $10 in your account, we'll give you $200 in free bets. Remember, all these companies out here are trying to make a profit. And if they're giving you something for free, it's because they know they're going to make that money back, most likely directly off of you,” said Grubbs. 

The two-day conference resumes Friday. 

For more information and resources, contact the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966.