Seeking help for gambling addiction is not a gamble

The die has been cast, and the chances of developing a gambling addiction in Ohio have risen.

According to a recent survey, the rate of problem gambling in Ohio has tripled since 2012, as reported by Ohio for Responsible Gambling.

“It’s gotten out of control,” remarked Steven Kapela, the senior director of outpatient and recovery support services at the Zepf Center in Toledo. “It’s like you can practically purchase Keno tickets at McDonald’s.”

According to Mr. Kapela, the prevalence of gambling addiction is increasing due to the convenience of accessing various types of gambling games.

The legalization of sports betting in Ohio in 2022 has opened up new avenues for placing bets, making it easier for many individuals to engage in this activity. However, this has also led to an increase in the number of people who are struggling with gambling addiction and in need of assistance. According to ORG, calls to Ohio’s problem gambling helpline have surged by 55 percent. In 2023, there were 10,637 calls made to Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline, compared to 6,835 calls in 2022.

According to Michael Buzzelli, associate director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, the recent surge in calls related to sports betting in Ohio was unexpected. While it was anticipated that there would be an increase in calls due to the rise in sports betting in other states, the magnitude of the increase was surprising. This highlights the need for continued efforts by responsible gambling advocates throughout the state.

According to Megan Poliquin, manager of problem gambling treatment at the Zepf Center, seeking help for a gambling addiction can be a cathartic experience for the individual. The journey of addiction often involves deceit, financial burdens, and even suicidal thoughts.

“They’re hiding from their family in the bathroom, placing bets because there are no barriers,” Mr. Kapela observed, gesturing towards everyone’s ever-present sidekick – the cellphone. “You can take the casino with you, whether it’s to bed or to class.”

According to Cleveland Clinic, constantly chasing losses in an attempt to recover what has been lost is often indicative of a gambling problem. Another red flag is relying on other people to finance a bet or replace lost money.

Lucas County residents made a total of 112 calls to the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline in 2023.

“Our client population is on the rise,” Mr. Kapela asserted. “If you suspect that you might have a problem, chances are, you do.”

According to Mr. Kapela, children are being introduced to gambling at an early age through video games that feature loot boxes. A survey conducted in 2019 revealed that two of the most popular games with loot boxes are Fortnite Battle Royale and Overwatch, as reported by 1,003 gamers.

Loot boxes bring together the gaming and gambling industries by offering unknown rewards that can either be earned or purchased, such as a more powerful weapon or enhanced healing abilities. Recent studies have found striking similarities between gaming and gambling, with one study published in the National Library of Medicine revealing that loot box consumption among 13 to 14-year-old youths has increased from 24.9 percent in 2019 to 31.6 percent in 2022.

According to Ms. Poliquin, the process is essentially priming the pathway.

Skin betting is a popular tradition in the gaming community. Players have the opportunity to win or purchase various skins, such as weapon enhancements or vibrant colors. These skins can then be stored in a virtual wallet and used for betting or gambling on different websites. The skins serve as tokens in these gambling games, which are not subject to regulations as they do not involve the use of actual money.

According to Mr. Kapela, it is another method through which young individuals gain knowledge about the complexities of gambling.

With access to student loans, today’s generation of college students not only has financial resources but also possesses a wealth of knowledge and easy access to activities such as sports betting.

Dr. Joshua Grubbs, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico and investigator with its Center for Alcohol, Substance Use and Addictions, has received multiple grants in 2021 and 2022 to conduct research on sports betting, focusing particularly on Ohio.

A rise in gambling addiction may be attributed to the increasing popularity of sports betting, according to experts. The accessibility of gambling has been significantly altered by the introduction of sports betting.

“The legalization of sports betting has opened up the opportunity for gambling on mobile phones,” stated Dr. Grubbs. He further highlighted that sports wagering particularly attracts young men who are employed and have disposable income. He noted, “This demographic consists mostly of young men who often make impulsive choices.”

Addiction counselors at the Zepf Center are available to assist individuals who have grown weary of the negative outcomes associated with excessive gambling. They provide guidance on managing stress and exploring healthier ways to utilize disposable income.

According to Mr. Kapela, taking control of your finances and fulfilling your financial obligations is crucial. However, he emphasizes the importance of using a portion of your funds for something enjoyable and positive. For instance, he suggests investing in experiences like learning how to fly a helicopter or purchasing an RV for travel. The ultimate benefit is the peace of mind that comes with financial freedom. People no longer have to live in hiding and can feel a significant weight lifted off their shoulders.

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MBS Staff
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