COLUMBUS — More Ohioans right now have a gambling problem when it comes to the lottery, but more are at risk of developing problems with casinos as they open, a state study released today revealed.
That is primarily because, until casinos opened in May in Toledo and Cleveland, Ohioans had to leave the state to engage in casino gambling.
The survey identified 2.8 percent of the state’s adult population, or 246,561 people, as having a gambling problem or being at risk for developing a problem.
“We have a clear picture of where we started in Ohio, and as these casinos come on line, we’re going to have something that we can measure against," said Jo Ann Davidson, chairman of the Ohio Casino Control Commission.
The telephone survey questioned 3,600 adults between February and July, with a heavier sampling of residents of Lucas and Cuyahoga counties before their casinos opened.
In 2009, voters approved four 24-hour, Las Vegas-style casinos on specific parcels. The state’s first, Rock Ohio Caesar’s Horseshoe Casino, opened in mid-May in a former downtown Cleveland department store. The second, Penn National Gaming’s Hollywood Casino, followed just after Memorial Day on the East Toledo riverfront.
Penn is set to open its second Ohio casino later this month in west Columbus followed by the last casino from ROC in Cincinnati next year.
Of the four host counties, Hamilton, which doesn’t yet have a casino, was found to have the largest current problem with gambling at 1.4 percent, or 11,955 people.
“We’re not sure why that is," said Sanford Starr, of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. “One of the hypotheses is that it may be a proximity effect with the existing casinos across the river in Kentucky and Indiana. We have some more work to do to understand why."
By comparison, Cuyahoga had the smallest problem percentage-wise at 0.1 percent, or 1,251 people while Lucas has the smallest problem in terms of raw numbers of people — 0.2 percent or 847 people.
Franklin was at 0.2 percent, or 2,166 people.
In Lucas, 11.9 percent of its population, or 50,375 people, are considered to be at low risk of developing a problem while 2.7 percent, or 11,430, are considered at moderate risk.