CLEVELAND — The clock is ticking for Ohioans eager to place their bets on their favorite sporting events. But as we await the arrival of sports betting in our state, some organizations are preparing to help those who find themselves in crisis mode.
For most people gambling is a fun way to unwind. But Jess Stewart says for one in ten adults, “it’s a major issue.”
Stewart, the vice president of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, knows all too well how things can spiral out of control. He’s been in recovery for six years. Now he cautions that when sports betting becomes legal January 1, 2023, it’ll be a massive expansion of the gambling landscape.
“It’s not just racinos and casinos. It’s going to be in bars, it’s going to be in restaurants, it’s going to be in grocery stores...It’s also available on your phone 24/7,” he said.
With access to gambling about to become so much more widespread, experts say now is the time to learn the warning signs of problem gambling. Especially when it comes to placing bets on your phone.
PGN Associate Director Michael Buzzelli told News 5, “because of things like phone apps and the ability to bet on every pitch in a baseball game or every down in a football game, people can start to lose track as to how much time is passing, how much money is actually leaving their wallets.”
One of those warning signs is called chasing.
“When you start chasing losses, you’re using money that you really can’t afford to be,” said Stewart.
You should consider asking for help if you’re gambling with money you need for your rent, mortgage, grocery bill or utilities. Stewart said you should set a limit and stick to it. And don’t feel ashamed to ask for help.
“It’s a mental health disease,” said Stewart. He said gambling addiction is shrouded in misconception. “With alcohol, it’s a drink. With drugs, it’s a substance. With gambling, the preconceptions are that you should just be able to stop.” But just like with drug and alcohol addiction, Stewart said problem gamblers can build up a tolerance. They don’t know when to stop.
Here are some of the signs that your gambling habit is becoming a problem:
- Exaggerating gambling wins and downplaying losses
- Asking for loans to cover gambling losses
- Using money for food, rent, or other necessities for gambling
- Poor work performance
- Restlessness or irritability when not gambling
Problem gambling treatment is available at low or no cost in Ohio, and recovery is possible. The Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline operates 24/7 at 1-800-589-9966 to provide resources for those experiencing a gambling problem or concerned loved ones. Specialists can connect callers with treatment options in their area within 24 hours. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988. They’re trained to recognize gambling addiction as a driver of suicidal thoughts.
“I was on the verge of suicide at one time in my life,” Stewart told us. “Now I’m six years on the other side and it’s been the happiest six years of my life.”
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