Betting on gambling addictions PDF Print E-mail
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer   
Thursday, 02 January 2014 10:27
The nearest casino lies just past Wood County’s northern border, but one of its biggest challenges spills over into the rest of the state.     
Signs don’t show that gambling addiction is on the rise here yet, but further studies are needed to determine the impact of legalized gaming, particularly on young people, according to Lorrie Lewandowski, associate director of Wood County’s Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.
“The verdict is still out on that. We just do not have a lot of information yet. It’s fairly new,” she said.
Even though casinos don’t allow players under 21, many of those most susceptible to the lure of fast cash are teens and young adults, who are two to four times more likely to engage in problem gambling, Lewandowski said.
According to a 2012 youth behavior study, 29.6 percent participated in some form of gambling in the previous year, whether it’s scratching a lottery ticket, participating in a raffle or wagering on a game or event.
Lewandowski said that many young people estimate gambling as even more of a social norm, with the perception that even more of their peers are gambling.
“Youth often overestimate the number of other adolescents they believe are engaging in the problem behavior,” Lewandowski said. “If they believe that more of their peers are doing it and it’s a socially acceptable behavior, then they engage.”
Casino gambling wasn’t permitted in Ohio until voters passed a law in 2009 allowing for the construction of casinos in Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. The proposal came with caveats that include a 33-percent gross revenue tax that spreads money to all 88 counties and the four host cities.
Wood County has received more than $1.7 million from casino revenues, which add up to more than $1.1 billion in about a year and a half. Commissioners have expressed an interest in using the money for infrastructure, such as bridge repairs, to benefit as many residents as possible.
Casino taxes also help fund local school districts and also and state programs like law enforcement training and the casino control commission, with an account for addiction prevention and treatment falling to the bottom of the list, receiving 2 percent of the pot.
While it’s too soon to say whether Ohio’s casinos have exacerbated the problem among youth or adults — before 2012, several were already operating just up the road in Detroit — experts here aren’t sitting on their hands waiting to see if things get worse.
Wood County’s share of the addiction fund, just over $42,000 so far, has allowed the local ADAMHS board to perform target marketing of anti-addiction messages, using billboards and other means to preach the mantra, “Don’t let the game play you.”
In addition, staff at Behavioral Connections, a contract agency of Wood County ADAMHS, have begun training to learn how to better help those who already have a problem.
“What we’re trying to do with our campaign is get out ahead of the game with prevention,” Lewandowski said.
“You raise awareness about the problem. You give people referral information, if they understand or believe they have a problem, that they can get help.”
Lewandowski said the Wood County ADAMHS board is soliciting a new member with expertise on gambling addiction and hopes to form a task force this spring to study potential problems in further detail.
Additional money earmarked for addiction treatment could also help fund future studies into whether problem gambling has increased locally since Ohio built its casinos, Lewandowski said.
For more information, visit the Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services website at For local help with problem gambling, call Wood County ADAMHS at 419-352-8475.

Facts & Figures
  • According to a study performed in the spring of 2012, immediately before Ohio’s casinos began opening, 3.8 million Ohioans over age 18, or 43.3 percent, do not gamble. Of those who do, more than half do not exhibit risk factors for problem gambling.
  • Only 0.3 percent, or 26,417 people, meet the psychological criteria for problem gambling. About 10 percent of problem gamblers will seek treatment.
  • According to a separate 2012 study of Ohio youth behavior, 29.6 percent of those under 18 reported participating in some form of gambling in the last year.
  • In about a year and a half, Ohio casinos have grossed more than $1.1 billion in revenue.
Last Updated on Thursday, 02 January 2014 10:29

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