Survey: Problem gamblers in Ohio doubled after casinos

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The percentage of Ohioans deemed problem gamblers has doubled since the implementation of racinos and casinos five years ago, according to a survey released Wednesday whose results state leaders say they expected.

The Ohio Gambling Survey said 0.9 percent of residents or about 76,400 people are problem gamblers, up from 0.4 percent or about 46,200 in 2012. Overall, about one in 10 Ohioans is considered an at-risk gambler.

The $1.3 million survey was a follow-up to one conducted in 2012 ahead of the implementation of casinos and racinos, or horse tracks outfitted with video slot machines.

Ohio's problem gambling rate remains below the national average of 2.2 percent, officials say.

Ohio's rate has grown slowly and there's no reason to think it will reach the national average because of programs the state put in place early dealing with education, treatment and prevention, said, Matt Schuler, Ohio Casino Control Commission executive director.

"That has in many ways given people the tools they need to be able to determine whether they're having a gambling problem or at risk for a gambling problem before it turns into a full-blown gambling disorder," he said.

Betting at casinos and racinos and taking sports bets topped the list of problem gambling, followed by the Ohio lottery and the stock market, the survey said.

Tips for avoiding at-risk gambling include making a budget and sticking to it before gambling and not gambling on credit, said Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Those are some of the lessons followed by recovering gambling addict Jayson Saylor, who attended the release of the survey results Wednesday.

Saylor, 44, of Reynoldsburg in suburban Columbus, said he compulsively bought instant tickets at bingo parlors. At least twice, he gambled away his disability checks, leaving him without money for rent and other expenses. He suffers from degenerative disk disease and a neurological condition.

Saylor receives counseling through a local addictions service agency and said he hasn't placed a bet in six months. But he continues to fight what he calls "an insidious disease."

"It's really hard for me to not gamble," Saylor said. "It takes me down further every time I do it. I know what the results are going to be, but I just can't stop sometimes."