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Sports Betting: who's winning and who's losing in Ohio

{p}New gambling kiosk at The O on Lane Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. They are one of 798 licensed locations to have them in Ohio. February 12, 2023 (WSYX){/p}

New gambling kiosk at The O on Lane Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. They are one of 798 licensed locations to have them in Ohio. February 12, 2023 (WSYX)

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It's everywhere you look. The advertisements tempting people to give sports betting a try.

"On tv, on social media, scrolling through as I pull out of my house across the street there's a billboard, it really is inescapable," said Derek Longmeier, the Executive Director of the nonprofit, statewide organization Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.

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He says the aggressiveness of all the ads has addiction experts asking you to "Pause Before You Play." That's the statewide campaign.

"When we look at all forms of gambling in the state, those who are of age and participated, about one in 10 are at risk of developing a gambling problem. But when we look specifically at sports betting, it went from one in ten, to one in four," Longmeier said.

He says the numbers are concerning.

In January 2022, the Problem Gambling Hotline received about 500 calls.

A year later, in the first month of legalized sports betting, January of 2023, the state helpline received 1,500 calls.

"It's hugely concerning," said Longmeier.

Also concerning he says, the new kiosks that are going in at some bars, restaurants, and grocery stores.

"We are unique in Ohio that our ability to wager on sports is much more accessible than other states. We are going to have kiosks at Kroger and Giant Eagle in the next couple of months," he said.

The O on Lane Avenue is one of 798 licensed locations to have a kiosk.

But bar owner Ed Gaughan says he's not sure his business has actually hit the jackpot with the new electronic betting machine.

"When they first talked about it, not only myself, but I have a bunch of friends that are also in the business, we were excited."

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Gaughan says the kiosks were touted as a way to help drive people back to bars and restaurants after the pandemic.

It was supposed to be another form of entertainment to attract customers.

But Gaughan says he and his friends aren't seeing that push.

He believes it's because the kiosks are limited on what you can bet on, and that it's simply too easy for people to place their bets on their mobile devices.

"There's just way more options, it's more convenient. It's on the app. Everyone has a phone in their hand, not everyone is in front of a kiosk," Gaughan said.

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Each business is also supposed to monitor the age of the player.

But on some machines, all you have to do is tap the button to say you're 21. There's no proof of age required at least not yet.

Longmeier says that's a statewide problem.

"The compliance and age verification that currently is underway probably won't be sufficient as we look at sports betting," he said.

And only six weeks into legal sports betting, Longmeier says there's already a surge in problem gambling.

"Is the state doing enough to address this issue? I think we are right now, and we are getting ready to do more and better," said Longmeier.

Two percent of the revenue from sports betting will go to help fund and address the increase in gambling addiction.

If you need help or know someone who may have a gambling problem, contact the helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or online here.

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