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With Legal Sports Betting, Ohio Experiences a Rush of March Madness and Problem Gambling

COLUMBUS, OHIO - As the annual NCAA March Madness tournament continues, concerns about problem gambling are arising. With the legalization of sports betting this past January, Ohioans are able to place legal wagers through sportsbooks on their phone, at casinos and racinos, and even some bars and restaurants.

Problem gambling is a serious issue that can have devastating consequences for individuals and loved ones. Problem gambling, characterized by excessive and uncontrollable gambling behavior, is a serious issue that can have devastating impacts on individuals, families, and communities.

With its many games and betting opportunities, popular sporting events like March Madness can exacerbate problem gambling behavior. Ohio experienced this past February during Super Bowl LVII, with Ohioans placing second nationwide for the number of bets placed.

Advocates say that the increased availability of sports betting is leading to an increase in problem gambling. January and February, the first two months of legal sports betting, saw an 158% increase in calls to the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-589-9966) compared to 2022. Super Bowl Sunday alone had 68 calls made to the helpline.

The rise in calls  is not unique to Ohio. Several other states that have legalized sports betting have reported similar trends. This underscores the importance of providing support to individuals and families affected by gambling addiction and promoting responsible gambling practices.

"We knew the numbers were going to increase,” said Derek Longmeier, Executive Director, Problem Gambling Network of Ohio (PGNO). “While Ohio’s increase in calls for help matches other states that have recently legalized sports betting, it’s still a wakeup call for people to take notice.”

Ohio’s statewide responsible gambling campaign, Pause Before You Play, is encouraging those who are placing bets on the big game to “pause before you play” with these tips:

Set Limits – Limiting the amount you bet or the amount of time you play is an easy way to prevent gambling from creating problems in your life.

Recognize the Risks – No matter how certain you feel about your bet, every bet is a risk. Don’t wager more than you can afford to lose.

Know When to Stop – When the rush of a bet begins to mean more than the actual sport, it might be time to stop.

The Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-589-9966) operates 24/7 and provides callers with resources for themselves or loved ones. Gambling support specialists are available to provide additional details about what gambling treatment can look like, how Gamblers Anonymous operates, or how to self-limit from sports betting offers. Those seeking treatment options can visit to find support close to home.