Sports Betting Increases Addiction Risks
It’s hard not to notice all the advertisements and news stories about the new sports betting law that took effect in Ohio at the beginning of 2023. The sports betting companies seem to be surrounding their ad campaigns around ‘risk free’ betting. This may be of ‘low risk’ in terms of an individual placing their first bet, but it may pose a high risk in leading to addiction problems and financial and mental health concerns.
The National Council on Problem Gambling says that there may be twice as much of a risk for gambling problems for those among the sports betting communities. There are multiple studies showing the correlation between gambling/sports betting and the negative impact on an individual’s overall mental health, including problems with depression, anxiety, suicide, and other addictive disorders.
One of the biggest concerns is with the increase of access to gambling services, there may also be an increase in access for our youth being exposed to this behavior.
“The fact that sports bets can be made through mobile apps, makes it very easy for the younger generation since they are very comfortable with electronic devices,” observed John Garrity, PhD, director of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County. “Young people are vulnerable to addiction and other stressors as their brains are still in development through their twenties,” he explained. “This can lead to serious mental health risks, such as severe depression and an increase in suicidality.”
Sports betting can become attractive with its immediate victories with in-play bets and built in “cheering squads.” The odds change constantly, and that impact that brain’s reward system. And there are more opportunities for lofty risk taking. Some people start to believe that it is a game of skill, leading to the belief that knowing more will make you win more.
There are multiple signs to be aware of when it comes to determining if someone may have a gambling addiction problem. The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio sites a few warning signs, such as when individuals are dishonest about and constantly borrowing money, exaggerating wins and minimizing losses in conversation, hiding bills or debts from family, and increased irritability when not actively gambling.
“Portage County has been very proactive in our attempt to address the potential influx of gambling-related concerns within our community,” commented Luke Barker, clinical manager of the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.
There is a free online gambling screening available on the Board’s website where a person can answer a few questions to help determine if treatment should be sought.
Townhall II is a local Portage County agency that provides gambling addiction treatment. In addition to in person counseling, they are offering Ohio’s 1st online gambling treatment group open to any Ohio resident at no cost. Call 330-678-3006 for more information.