One Year In, Have Casinos Increased Problem Gambling?

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The number of people calling the state’s problem gambling helpline went from 348 in February, 2013 to a high of 1,522 by July, 2013.(Photo: Flickr)
The number of people calling the state’s problem gambling helpline went from 348 in February, 2013 to a high of 1,522 by July, 2013.(Photo: Flickr)

It’s been a year since Horseshoe Cincinnati, the last of Ohio’s casinos to open, began taking bets.

So are concerns about problem gambling coming true?

The number of people calling Ohio’s Gambling Helpline or adding themselves to the state’s Voluntary Exclusion Program has gone up. Statewide, the voluntary exclusion list has grown from 252 people in February 2013 to almost 750 people as of last month. That seems like a big jump. But is it concerning?

“No, not at this point,” says Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson with the state’s Bureau of Problem Gambling. “We do see a change starting to occur and we knew that would happen based on the experiences from other states. Once there are increased opportunities for gambling, especially casino and racino venues, then you do start to get an increase but it usually takes three or four years before you really see that impact in problem gambling.”

Okay, but the number of people calling the state’s problem gambling helpline went from 348 in February, 2013 to a high of 1,522 by July, 2013.

That HAS to be a lot, right?

“We have a large percentage of individuals who call that number for things that aren’t problem gambling issues,” says Frohnapfel-Hasson. “For example, ‘what’s on the buffet in Cincinnati?’ ‘Who’s playing in the bar?”

Plus Frohnapfel-Hasson says the phone number is just a lot more visible now. It’s on everything: video lottery terminals, slot machines, billboards.

Horseshoe Cincinnati says nothing has changed in its approach to Responsible Gaming. A spokesperson declined to say how many people the casino has added to its banned list.

Ohio took a baseline study before the casinos opened so it will be able to track problem gambling over time.

Meanwhile, addiction specialists are meeting this week in Columbus for Ohio’s annual Problem Gambling Conference. This year’s focus is the state’s response to a changing landscape.

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