Initiatives aim to curb increase in problem gambling in Ohio

With problem gambling on the rise in Ohio, the state is starting campaigns to combat the issue.

Get Set Before You Bet” discourages gamblers from spending more than they can afford to lose, and “Change the Game” asks adults to recognize the signs of problem gambling in children and discuss it with them.

The Ohio for Responsible Gambling initiative, which includes state agencies such as the lottery and casino commissions, organized the campaigns and is giving videos and print materials to providers of mental-health care and nonprofit groups to distribute. The state also has consolidated a voluntary exclusion list that problem gamblers can join.

A state Department of Mental Health survey released last year found that 10.3 percent of Ohioans are at risk for problem gambling. Before Ohio’s seven racinos and four casinos opened, a similar survey found 5.7 percent of Ohioans at risk.

“Any time you increase gambling availability, you’re going to see problem gambling go up,” said Michael Buzzelli, gambling-services coordinator for Recovery Resources in Cleveland.

The popularity of games and apps that include gambling-like behavior has exacerbated the problem, experts said.

Bruce Jones, administrative coordinator for Maryhaven’s gambling-services program, said the central Ohio provider of mental-health care has fielded more calls in recent years from parents concerned about their children gambling.

“There are third-party betting opportunities parents aren’t even aware of,” Jones said. “It is definitely a gateway” to problem gambling.

Patrick Cooley –