CLEVELAND — March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and during it, the state is bringing awareness not only to the issues that can arise from gambling, but also the resources available to help those struggling.
Michael Buzzelli, associate director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said that there may have been an increase in people turning to gambling as an escape during the pandemic.
"I think there's a number of reasons for that. People wanting to be out, you know, get away from the isolation that they were experiencing," Buzzelli said.
While many people enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment, some can develop problems doing so.
Buzzelli says there are warning signs to look for to help you know if you or a loved one may be experiencing gambling problems.
"If they're spending more time or more money during their gambling. Also, maybe some irritability or mood changes," Buzzelli said.
Developing a gambling problem is not an uncommon occurrence, with more than 76,000 Ohioans being high-risk problem gamblers and more than 900,000 Ohioans at risk for problem gambling, according to Ohio for Responsible Gambling.
What Buzzelli said makes problem gambling so easy to develop is the sense of hope that can come along with any gambling experience.
"Gambling is a very unique disorder in the fact that it has an element of hope. No one is going to drink too much to hope their life gets better or take drugs to help their life gets better, but gambling has an element of hope, you could win," Buzzelli said.
There are resources for those struggling with problem gambling, however, and during Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the state is highlighting some useful resources.
Scott Anderson, a problem gambling specialist with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, pointed to the Ohio Gambling Helpline for those looking for assistance for themselves or someone they know. That number is 1-800-589-9966, and the helpline is available 24 hours a day.
Additionally, two statewide campaigns—the Get Set Before You Bet campaign and the Change the Game campaign—are offering assistance to those in need.
"We are very, very proud of our ability to treat this in Ohio. We have several providers across the state, and gambling treatment is actually at no cost to the individual that comes," Anderson said.
To learn more about the Get Set Before You Bet campaign, click here. To learn more about the Change the Game campaign, click here.
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