SW Ohio a hotbed for legal sports gambling in January; Kentuckians cross border to bet

Cincinnati Bengals playoff games spur spike in gambling

Credit: David Dermer

Credit: David Dermer

Ohio and Kentucky residents alike took big advantage of Ohio’s first month of legalized betting — research suggests that Sunday’s Super Bowl LVII could increase that activity dramatically.

There were about 2.3 million unique betting accounts that placed a wager in Ohio throughout January, according to geolocation compliance company GeoComply, which is contracted by all of the state’s licensed betting partners to ensure that folks who place bets on apps such as DraftKings, FanDuel and bet365 are placing those bets inside Ohio borders.

GeoComply’s aggregated data for the entirety of January shows that Cincinnati had the highest amount of betting activity (38.2 million location checks), and a chunk of that activity was traceable back to accounts that likely originated from Kentucky, where sports betting is still illegal.

Jessica Franks, the director of communications for the regulatory Ohio Casino Control Commission, said all non-Ohio residents can sign up to any of Ohio’s 16 licensed betting partners, but all wagers must be placed within Ohio’s borders.

GeoComply identified over 58,000 unique accounts in Kentucky which attempted to access a legal sportsbook in Ohio. In total, there were about 1 million geolocation checks on Kentucky accounts.

Most of the Kentuckians who crossed the border to place their bets did so in Cincinnati, but some had activity traced even further north, venturing into Mason, Hamilton, West Chester, and particularly Middletown, as much of the activity was concentrated along Interstate 75.

Ohio is the newest addition to the 33 states with operational, legal sports betting markets. Another three states have legalized betting and await an official start date, while eight others are mulling over sports betting legislation.

Now, the American Gaming Association estimates that 57% (146 million) of American adults live within a sports betting market. Of those, the association expects more than 50 million residents to place wagers on Super Bowl LVII — a 61% increase from last year’s activity.

Those bettors are estimated to wager nearly $16 billion on the game, the association said in a press release.

Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline (800-859-9966), overseen by the OCCC, has seen significant increases in call volume from across the state.

The helpline received 456 calls in January 2022 and 635 in December, compared to 1,492 received calls in January 2023— a 227% year-over-year increase and a 135% month-to-month increase.

The bulk of those calls, according to graphics provided by the helpline, were unable to be officially deemed “related to gambling addiction.”

Derek Longmeier, the executive director of Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, said plenty of callers are seeking help but are then reluctant to give personal information, while others are calling simply to “see how much the PowerBall jackpot is up to.”

When the helpline was able to cite why folks called in, 125 callers said their gambling habits caused financial issues, another 53 cited family issues, and another 17 cited mental health problems.

One-hundred nineteen of those callers said daily fantasy sports was their problematic gambling activity, while 67 callers cited casino slot machines, and 49 callers cited sports betting.

In December 2022, the month before betting markets opened in Ohio, only 13 callers cited being troubled by their sports betting activity — a 277% month-to-month increase.

Last month, the helpline was able to record the location of about 700 callers, while the location of the other 800 went unrecorded. Montgomery County had the 4th most callers with 17; Butler County had the 5th most callers with 16; and Clark County had the 9th most callers with 8.

How to get help

The gambling helpline is available 24/7 at 800-589-9966, or at www.Beforeyoubet.org. For information on the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, go to www.pgnohio.org.

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