The Intersection of Gambling Harm and Mental Health: The Ohio Casino Control Commission on Protecting Ohio’s College Athletes

By: Cory Brown, MPA, OCPC, ICPS | Manager of Problem Gambling Services at Ohio Casino Control Commission

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the Ohio Casino Control Commission is taking steps to not only bring awareness to the connection between gambling harm and mental health but also actively support programs and initiatives that are designed to positively impact the mental health of college athletes.

Intersection of Gambling Harm and Mental Health

Gambling Harm and Mental HealthAccording to the Ohio Gambling Survey, the prevalence of gambling harms in Ohio has increased over the last five years. Currently, 20% of Ohio adults are at-risk or currently experiencing gambling harms. Ohio’s young adults, aged 18 to 24, experience gambling harms at a higher rate than other age groups.

Gambling harm has been shown to have a connection with mental health concerns. Overall, Ohioans impacted by gambling harm are twice as likely to experience serious depression and one-and-a-half times more likely to experience serious stress.

College students, particularly college athletes, are of specific concern as they belong to the highest at-risk group in Ohio and are more likely to experience general mental health concerns, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

Gambling Harm Protections

The Ohio Casino Control Commission is the regulatory body tasked with ensuring the integrity of sports gaming and has jurisdiction over those who conduct or participate in sports betting. This includes protecting vulnerable populations from both gambling harm and undue harassment.

Earlier this year, the NCAA made a request to the Commission to prohibit player-specific proposition wagers on college athletics events, using a provision in the sports gaming law that permits sports governing bodies to request sporting events or wager types be prohibited or restricted in Ohio. Their request was granted, and as of March 1, 2024, these types of wagers are no longer available in Ohio.

Gambling Harm Prevention Programs and Mental Health Wellness Initiatives

The Commission’s Division of Problem Gambling Services also administers programs designed to prevent and reduce gambling-related harm in Ohio. It is currently collaborating with advertising agencies, non-profit organizations, state universities, and others on projects to protect college athletes.

The Division is working with Origo Branding Company to develop an awareness campaign that aims to not only humanize the college athlete but also help prevent harassment and bullying from individuals who engage in sports betting. This campaign is currently in the development stage; however, once complete, campaign materials will be made available to Ohio’s colleges and universities to disseminate on campus and via other marketing channels.

The Division is also working with Kindbridge Research Institute to provide college athletes with education about gambling harms. In addition to synchronous, in-person education sessions, college athletes will be able to access asynchronous education modules on a mobile app. The mobile app will also provide a mechanism to anonymously report instances of harassment and/or abuse. Lastly, the mobile app also provides a direct link to care for college athletes experiencing mental health concerns and/or concerns with gambling harm.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission strongly supports the mental health of college athletes and will continue to monitor the progress of partnerships and programs to ensure protections for those who are most vulnerable.