DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The legalization of sports betting in January has led to triple the number of calls to the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline, officials say.

“Based on January 2022 to January 2023, those numbers have tripled,” Derek Longmeier, the Executive Director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said. “We expected an uptick in call volume, but it was more robust than we had anticipated.”

Longmeier said that data reports show a connection between the increase in calls and the legalization of sports betting.

“Just looking at the uptick right after January, leading up to 2023, we saw incremental upticks in the call volume every month. Even in December, it was 600 and some and then we were close to 1,500 in January,” he said. “Sports betting is definitely the primary factor.”

January was the first time the organization saw a pattern younger demographics calling at higher levels, which was a shift from any previous records to date.

However, Longmeier said that despite this shift, the organization’s mission remains the same: to help those struggling with problem gambling and to build a network of support through collaboration, education and research.

“People are calling for help with gambling,” Longmeier said. “That’s our responsibility: to make sure help is available by working with prevention practitioners and clinicians and engaging with the self-help community, like Gamblers Anonymous or other groups, to make sure support is available for any needs that might arise.”

Gamblers Anonymous offers a variety of meeting options, varying from Closed (only those with a gambling problem, or those who think they may have a gambling problem are eligible to participate) to Open (which may include spouses, family, and friends of the gambler). You can find a GA meeting in your area online here.

According to Longmeier, one of the clearest ways to recognize problem gambling is when it no longer becomes fun or a source of entertainment for the user. He said you should be able to stick to a budget, whether it be budgeting time or dollars.

“Certainly, never going back to win back your losses,” he said. “For loved ones, just being a good listener and if someone seems to be super preoccupied with gambling, having conversations to see if there are some warning signs that are included in what they are saying.”

If you are struggling with problem gambling, the first step to getting help is to call the Ohio Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-589-9966.

To learn more about the organization and the resources it offers, you can visit their website here.