CLEVELAND – Calls for help to the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline are up 50 percent for the month of June, according to the United Way of Greater Cleveland.
Anyone in the state who calls the 800-number posted on Horseshoe Cleveland or Hollywood Casino advertising is redirected to a call center at the United Way on Euclid Avenue. It’s the same facility that handles calls for 211, the free community service offering social, health and government resources.
“211 has been running for years - literally - and last year, we took a quarter-million calls in this community,” said President and CEO Bill Kitson from the United Way.
But, according to Kitson, the need has been on the rise since the casinos started taking bets. The calls for gambling-related help will surpass 400 in the month of June. “And in other communities, like in Lucas County, where we're taking calls for their casino, they're up over 200 percent for the month.”
“We need to understand, just like alcohol and drugs are addictive and dangerous, so is gambling,” said former gambler Ray Parker. He’s pleased the service is required by the state and partially funded by the casinos. “One thing about gambling, it not only affects the person that's gambling, it affects everyone that's associated with them - the children are going to go lacking, the bills are not going to get paid.”
At the Horseshoe Cleveland, 20 so-called ‘responsible gaming ambassadors’ walk the floor and are trained to recognize symptoms of problem gambling. “The good sign that you have a problem is, if you're pawning your stuff off! Yeah, that's a good sign,” said Mitch Valentino from Cleveland.
But the warning signs aren’t always so obvious, which is why the helpline is a good place for anyone to start. According to Kitson, the need will only increase with two more casinos opening soon in Ohio. “We've received calls from 77 of the 88 counties, people who need help and support and want to know where to turn.”
The United Way will also help problem gamblers self-exclude from a casino. Meaning, they’re voluntarily forbidding themselves from going back inside. To date, they’ve assisted 30 people interested in banning themselves for good.