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Sports betting brings gambling addiction concerns to Ohio

Posted at 9:05 AM, Jan 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-02 19:17:31-05

CLEVELAND — The start of sports betting in Ohio has finally arrived, and it’s not only the sports books that have been working behind the scenes preparing for the launch.

With apps on smartphones and local sports books offering a variety of places to place your bet, experts say the ease of mobile betting increases the temptation to bet more than you can afford and hide your gambling from concerned family members.

Local health experts believe that could cause a surge of gambling problems among local residents.

“Gambling is addictive because it does that so often, and especially if you get that first big, it can be a huge surge of dopamine and that can be the start of the addiction," said problem gambling counselor Bill Newberry.

The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that over 5 million people experience a gambling problem every year. One of them spoke anonymously to News 5 Cleveland about the hardships his gambling addiction caused in his life.

“If I could take back that first step, walking in that direction, I'd definitely do it,” John said.

John is 58 years old and estimates his gambling addiction dates back to 1980. He remembers the first time he turned a $6 bet into a $40 payout.

“I thought, wow, this is pretty crazy. This must be pretty easy. And, boy, was I wrong,” John said.

He knew he had a problem when he began hiding his gambling and looking for excuses to meet friends at the racetrack and casinos.

“I've been married going on 34 years, so that's a long time. We've been blessed with two beautiful children,” John said. “I just thought it was time to go all in and be totally honest with everything and do the right thing.”

A gambling addiction can also be a co-occurring issue with substance abuse disorders, and health professionals say the dopamine hit placing a bet gives the body is identical to a drug addiction.

“Let's say with the $10 or $20 bet, you'll win some money. And let's say you have $500 in your pocket,” John said. “Now, all of a sudden, you're throwing out fifties and hundreds. And before you know it, you're standing there with nothing left in your hand.”

The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio and Ohio for Responsible Gambling have come up with a new program: pause before you play. It’s designed to encourage bettors to take that extra second to think before placing a bet.

“If you keep jumping in and betting on the same thing over and over again, that can cause a problem without even thinking about it,” Newberry said.

The biggest at-risk group is men ages 18-35. Experts stress the importance of knowing the signs of problem gambling and understanding that local agencies are providing recovery tools.

“You have to get help. And when you do that, you'll slowly start to see the layers peel back on what you've been hiding,” John said. “Once you get down to that truth and everything, it just turns into the amazing thing.”

You should never gamble for reasons other than entertainment. Experts suggest treating it more for fun and encourage bettors to never gamble for money as a source of income.

They also recommended against chasing losses and suggested individuals should treat the money they lose as the cost of their entertainment.

“If I could go back, I would try to draw something out on paper in regard to how much better things could have been and how much money, how much more money you could have saved instead of throwing it down the drain on gambling,” said John.

If you think you or someone you know has a gambling program, call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-589-9966, or click here for a list of resources near you.

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