Play It Safe To Avoid Problem Gambling Behavior

NEWARK-Gambling is a source of entertainment for many people, but it can cause significant financial, personal and family turmoil. A new public awareness campaign, Play It Safe, will help Licking and Knox County residents understand their limits and offer resources for those struggling to stay in control.

“With Play It Safe, we want Licking and Knox County residents to understand the risks of gambling and know how to play responsibly if they do choose to gamble,” said Kay Spergel, Executive Director of Mental Health and Recovery for Licking and Knox Counties. “The first defense against problem gambling is to know which behaviors are considered low-risk and which ones may be warning signs of a potential problem. “

A new website,, highlights responsible gambling behaviors, provides education on the signs of problem gambling and offers resources for people who need help with problem gambling. The site will also feature news stories that will inform Licking and Knox County residents about specific and timely gambling topics, such as youth and elderly gambling. Two brochures, “Are You Playing It Safe?” and “Concerned About Someone Else’s Gambling?” have been created to help ensure the campaign reaches audiences in both counties.

“Having an awareness of responsible gambling is so important,” said Bobby Persinger, Director of the Center for Prevention Services, a program of Pathways of Central Ohio. “As many as 264,000 Ohioans may engage in problem gambling behaviors—and they may not even know they’re doing so. For those affected by problem gambling, local prevention and treatment programs are available and they work.”

To find help for problem gambling, the 2-1-1/Crisis Hotline and Information Center of Pathways of Central Ohio is available 24/7 and can provide immediate support and referral information to local providers. Callers can dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-544-1601 to reach the 2-1-1/Crisis Hotline. Outside of Licking and Knox Counties, a statewide Problem Gambling Hotline is available at 1-800-589-9966.

Additional prevention activities such as a Facebook campaign aimed at 18-25 year olds are also planned. A recent study by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) found that this age group was significantly more likely to be at some risk for problem gambling.

Persinger added that oftentimes people think of problem gambling as being about illegal activity, but legal gambling, like the lottery, casinos and keno, can also lead to concern for some people.

Funding for Play it Safe comes from the constitutional amendment that brought casinos to Ohio. This amendment included a requirement that two percent of the tax on the casinos’ gross revenue go to the State Problem Casino Gambling and Addictions Fund to support efforts to alleviate problem gambling and substance abuse and related research in Ohio. The OhioMHAS administers these funds through the local alcohol, drug addiction and mental health boards across Ohio.

Contact: Kristin McCloud, Executive Director, Pathways of Central Ohio, 740-345-6166 x211