Ohio’s newest campaign to combat problem gambling comes with a guarantee: If you have a verified gambling addiction, you’ll get state-funded care.
The guarantee is part of the state’s $4.9 million problem-gambling response plan, funded mostly from 2 percent of tax revenue set aside from the state’s four casinos.
The number of people guaranteed to receive treatment likely will be small. A total of 209 people were treated in the 2013 fiscal year out of 5,898 screened at mental-health and drug-treatment agencies statewide, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.
Tracy Plouck, director of the state agency, outlined the problem-gambling plan at Wednesday’s meeting of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the panel that regulates casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo.
The state expects to allocate $3.8 million to county boards in the next year. Another $752,499 will be used for administration by the state agency, and $335,000 will be spent by the Ohio Lottery Commission for advertising and promotional campaigns.
A piece of the advertising will be aimed at young adult males, a group susceptible to gambling addictions. The “I Lost a Bet.org” campaign will use humor on social media, mobile technology and traditional advertising to convey the message.
For treatment and prevention, the state gave county boards nearly
$1.5 million in the fiscal year ending on June 30 with the requirement that 60 percent be spent on prevention and 40 percent on treatment. That balance may shift as more people seek treatment. No estimate is available for individual treatment costs because they vary so widely.
“We’re going to see the number grow slowly,” said Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson, spokeswoman for the state mental health and addiction agency. “Prevention is what’s primarily important right now, but as more individuals become identified as having a gambling disorder, we’ll be able to meet their needs.”
A 2012 study estimated that 250,000 Ohioans are problem gamblers or at risk of developing an addiction.
Most people will receive intensive outpatient treatment and counseling focused on the “life-dam
aging consequences” of gambling addiction, Frohnapfel-Hasson said.
Rob Walgate, vice president of the conservative American Policy Roundtable, said the amount spent on treatment, which is important, is overshadowed by how much the state is making off gambling. He was referring to a state tax levied on casinos, which so far has channeled more than $240 million to cities, counties and schools — and the problem-gambling fund.
“Casinos need problem gamblers to make money. They need to get people hooked to what they’re selling.
“It’s total hypocrisy and a perfect example of why good government and gambling just don’t mix,”Walgate said.
Officials at Hollywood Casino Columbus dispute that they benefit from problem gamblers. They recently pushed responsible gambling with a “Win By Saying When” campaign at the West Side casino.
“We want to make sure folks enjoy us as an entertainment option, to come in, gamble responsibly and have a good time,” said Gary DeWitt, assistant general manager of the Hollywood Casino.