How the Kentucky Sports Betting Launch Poses a Problem For the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC)
The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) faces a new problem pertaining to its younger residents. Starting September 7th, Ohioans between the ages of 18 and 21 will be able to travel south to Kentucky and register for online sports betting apps — something they can’t currently do in Ohio given the state’s legal gambling age of 21.
Young Individuals at Higher Risk for Developing a Gambling Addiction
Kentucky marks the last of Ohio’s border states to officially legalize sports betting. The other states include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and Michigan, all of which require residents to be over the age of 21 to partake in sports betting.
The OCCC — often lauded as one of the most proactive gaming commissions in the U.S. for their work in setting best practices for operators — has built their responsible gaming infrastructure with the understanding of at-risk populations, chief amongst these being younger individuals.
“The surveys that [the OCCC] conducted, prior to the launch of sports gaming, consistently showed that 18-24-year-olds are at the greatest risk for developing a gambling problem,” said Jessica Franks, the Director of Communications for the OCCC, in an interview with Lineups.
Drilling down to college students specifically, a recent 2023 survey conducted by the NCAA found that “67 percent of students living on campus are bettors and bet at a high frequency.”
Ohio’s Problem Gambling Support Networks
Knowing the challenge that lies ahead for its younger residents, the OCCC is focusing on what it can do to protect its population against problem gambling behaviors.
“Obviously we can’t stop people who may be 18, 19, or 20 from going to Kentucky and placing a wager if that’s what they want to do,” said Franks.
“One of the things that the commission has done, however, — and this applies to everybody regardless of age — is make sure that we have programs and services in place for people who are at risk or may develop a problem or may encounter some sort of negative consequences from sports betting,” she continued.
Specifically, the OCCC is focusing on support networks, operator regulations, and education campaigns.
“We have built up our team of counselors and individuals that can treat people with a gambling disorder,” said Franks.
“We have also just recently launched a Telehealth program for people seeking treatment in areas of the state that are located far from providers,” she continued.
Responsible Gaming Education Campaigns & Operator Regulations
One of the most common forms of problem betting that individuals seek treatment for is compulsive gambling, which, in the most severe cases, constitutes gambling addiction. Understanding that the first step to treatment is making sure that one knows they have a problem, the OCCC has launched a number of different education campaigns targeted specifically at sports betting.
“Our new pause before you play campaign is something that has been targeted at sports betting and still utilizes a lot of the responsible gaming messaging that we have used over the years.” said Franks.
“With this campaign, as well as with previous ones, we have worked with focus groups to really further distill it down into different segments of at risk groups,” she continued.
While these programs largely aren’t unique to the state of Ohio, what has been unique is the standard that the OCCC has held sportsbook operators to from a marketing perspective. On multiple occasions, the OCCC has had to fine sportsbook operators for violations pertaining to their messaging and advertising tactics.
“We were very clear with operators when it came to what our standards were with responsible gaming messaging and what we needed to see, and when we didn’t see that, we had to take administrative action with those operators,” said Franks.
18-21-Year-Old’s Who Sign-up in KY Will Not Be Able to Bet in OH
Sportsbooks verify a user’s age through their Social Security Number and verify their location through GeoComply. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 who register for a sportsbook app in Kentucky will be blocked from using that same sportsbook app when they cross back over into Ohio.
For the OCCC, this provides a sort of built-in safeguard for compulsive betting by teenagers so long as they are within state lines. Regardless, starting September 7th, 18-21-year-old’s along the state’s Southern border will find themselves within a half hour drive of legal betting territory.