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
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,
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
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
“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 www.mha.ohio.gov.
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
- In about a year and a half, Ohio casinos have grossed more than $1.1 billion