CLEVELAND (WJW) – Sports betting has been a huge interest point for people across Ohio, but a new report suggests that it could be the driving force behind a spike in calls to problem gambling hotlines.

A new report from Ohio for Responsible Gambling shows there’s been 227% increase in helpline calls in January 2023 compared to January 2022. Sports betting became legal on Jan. 1.

“I think that’s something that we kind of expected,” Recovery Resources Prevention Manager Nabil Pervaiz said.

Cleveland (145) has seen three times as many calls as Columbus (41) and Cincinnati (50).

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“When that there is this new availability, or new available type of gambling, there is going to be that higher likelihood of folks wanting to call in to not only seek out treatment, but maybe they just have questions,” Pervaiz said.

In Ohio, 1,492 calls were placed in January, but of those 168 were specifically noted for being about daily fantasy sports or sports betting. Ohio For Responsible Gambling noted that some of the call volume was driven by two abnormal factors: people calling to check on “free money” after bets were placed and a general interest created by the major marketing push for the problem gambling helpline.

Pervais said the first month of data should be taken with a grain of salt since it’s the initial batch being released, but the big takeaway should be help is available if people need.

“Whether it’s treatment, or if they’re looking to get into recovery to participate in gamblers anonymous, we really want to help support Ohioans when it comes to the treatment of disordered gambling,” he said.

If you or someone you know is experiencing problem gambling habits more info can be found right here. The hotline number is: 1-800-589-9966.