Gambling addiction in Ohio - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Gambling addiction in Ohio

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After years of challenges and debate, Ohio finally joined all of it's neighboring states in allowing casino style gambling. And with the newest casino and racetrack opening soon in Austintown, there is renewed focus on the issue of problem gambling.

The majority of people who visit a casino or racetrack treat gambling as recreation and entertainment. A recent survey estimated that the prevalence of at-risk and problem gambling in Ohio is 2.8 percent. For some it can lead to serious problems such as divorce, bankruptcy and foreclosure.

A man we'll call Jim joined gamblers anonymous in 1983. He says problem gambling is not an overnight thing.

"The thing about problem gamblers is the progression takes over you're no longer satisfied betting $10, $20 or $50," Jim said.

By the time he entered college, his life was out of control. "Gambling was the single most important thing in my life, it controlled everything," Jim said.

Jim said he started doing things he never thought he would do, illegal things. "Writing bad checks, borrowing money from anybody who would loan it to me, loan company's, signing my wifes name on loans."

In 1983, with debts mounting, he considered suicide. "I'm 31-years-old at the time and I'm thinking about running my car into a tree because I've totally lost control of my life," Jim said.

Here are the recognized signs and symptoms of problem gamblIng. Bragging about gambling and exaggerating wins, lying about money spent and lost, borrowing for gambling, missed work or family time, and hiding bills and unpaid debts.

In Ohio, the state requires gaming operators to have programs for problem gambling, and Penn-National, operators of the Austintown racino say they have always had there own in-house program.

"All of our team members are trained in responsible gaming from the time they go through out orientation, and then there's continuing eduation on that through-out their career with us," said Mike Galle, Vice President and General Manager of Hollywood Gaming Mahoning County Race Track.

Penn-National also offers a voluntary self exclusion option that allows people to ban themselves for up to five years.

"If you are excluded from another of our Penn properties or sister properties we know that, we have that information on file because our card is used among all of our properties," Galle said.

Jim, who is now a successful business owner, says people need to realize that there is a lot of help available and it can made a difference.

"I'm living proof that there's a chance to turn your life around" Jim said. More information and all the resources available for help with problem gambling is available at www.org.ohio.gov.


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