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Gambling addiction a major concern in sports betting debate

Ohio lawmakers and agency officials worry about the impact sports betting may have on gambling addicts.

Now that the Supreme Court has given states the go-ahead to allow gambling on sports nationwide, Ohio legislators are faced with deciding how to move forward with local legislation.

"There are a tremendous amount of options," said Senator Bill Coley, who represents the 4th Ohio Senate District, and is the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.

He says the legislature will consider things like anti-money laundering, match-integrity, and problem gaming.

"If the people who are betting have a gambling addiction -- they are starting to lose their rent or their car payment -- then their families are going to call us. And, we don’t want that," Coley said.

Agencies like the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio have concerns about how the expansion of sports betting can impact the rise of gambling addiction.

"Sports betting is gambling. So, many of the issues we might see with other forms of gambling would certainly be applied to sports betting," said Derek Longmeier, Executive Director for the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.

PGNO has a neutral stance on whether or not sports betting should be made legal in Ohio, but they do have concerns about implementation if approved.

"We want to make sure there will be pieces for voluntary exclusion, that there would be funds set aside for prevention and treatment dollars, and that any messaging related to sports gambling would include the Ohio problem gambling helpline," Longmeier said.

According to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction services, 90% of Ohioians who gamble do it safely. However, officials with the department say they are concerned about the growing population of people who are at risk of addiction.

"Our biggest problem group tends to be young adult males (ages 18-25). Young adult males are known for risky behaviors. It starts with adolescence, maybe even before that -- they tend to act first, think about consequences later," said Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson, Chief of Problem Gambling services for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The Legislature should make a decision on sports betting before December 31.