Ohio (WTRF) – Basketball fan or not, so many people have been anxiously checking March Madness brackets since the tournament began.
This year more people from the Buckeye State are able to place bets on their favorite teams.
Sports betting is now legal as of the beginning of this year, but that also means Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline has been answering more calls.
We’re seeing anybody and everybody sports betting.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
People of all ages and all genders, hat’s who the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio said has been reaching out for help with their gambling addiction, even more so since legalized sports betting began at the beginning of 2023.
We’ve been paying very close attention to the states that have already been operational in sports betting and all of their calls to help line, or treatment seeking rates have gone up, so we anticipated it.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
Just in the first month of sports betting, from December of 2022 until January of 2023, calls to Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline went up 135%. Buzzelli said in December of last year the helpline received just over 600 calls. In January of this year it jumped to 1,500 in the month.
To break it down even more, the Problem Gambling Helpline received 20 calls a day in December of 2022 and and average of 48 per day in January of 2023.
If you look at the past year, from January of 2022 to January of 2023, it’s up 227%.
What you don’t see is people who never gambled before become gambling addicts. What you don’t see is people who are living with a gambling addiction get deeper or more severe into it.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
Buzzelli explained that only betting on sports as they become legal isn’t causing people a gambling addiction their first time out. He also said people already in the throws of addiction aren’t seeing their situation get worse because sports betting is now available.
There are people who have never gambled before. They’re going to be new and excited. They’re probably going to gamble a little bit. Maybe the win a little. Maybe they lose a little, but the luster kind of goes away. It becomes now it’s just normalized, ‘I tried it, it was fun’ or maybe ‘it’s not for me I’m over it’.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
It’s people who are on the verge of having a gambling addiction that they are most concerned about.
People who are gambling responsibly, irresponsibly, they’re kind of on that fence of going back and fourth in risky behaviors. Then, when we give them a new form and make it accessible on their phone, that’s when they tip.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
There is one positive with the spiking numbers.
Buzzelli said they’re catching people sooner into their addictions, meaning they’re able to get help before severely damaging their lives.
We see people um throw mortgages away, empty the college tuition funds; things that have large impacts not only for them, but for their families later in life. So, if we can intervene sooner we might be able to prevent some of those really large life consequences.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-589-9966.
You can also visit beforeyoubet.org.
There you’ll find a quiz that will help you decide if you need to seek help for a gambling problem.
Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline said they don’t discourage people from gambling, they just want people to do it responsible.
Buzzelli said the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio actually works with the gambling industry to help make gambling addiction services accessible.
We work really closely with sports betting operators, the casinos in this state to make sure their staff are trained on what are the risks, what are the warning signs, how do they have a conversation with a patron that may be displaying those warning signs.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
Look out for warning signs like if gambling is no longer fun, if it causes stress and anxiety, if your mood or behavior changes, or if you are borrowing money and feel like you need to hide how much you gamble.
If these happen, it’s time to call for help.
If they start to think this is something I need a little more help with, make that call. Making that call isn’t’ signing up for treatment resources. It’s all about getting more information.Michael Buzzelli, Associate Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio
That helpline isn’t just open to people with gambling addictions. The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio also has resources for someone who thinks a loved one may have an addition.
You can also visit PGNOhio.org for more resources.