The other side of gambling

Ohio officials are beginning to tackle one of the problems bound to intensify as the state expands its involvement with gambling. A “Be the 95%” campaign launched this week is intended to keep residents of the Buckeye State from becoming part of the five percent of citizens who are struggling with a gambling problem, even as Ohio adds casinos, racinos, lottery options, electronic gambling, bingo and “skill game parlors.”

West Virginia has already established a Problem Gamblers Help Network and uses statewide ad campaigns in recognition of the fact that any state reaping the profits from legalized gambling also must be willing to help its victims.

Such programs are an expense line no one talks about when the praises of gambling enterprises are being sung in the beginning. But in Ohio, the Lottery Commission, Casino Control Commission and Drug Free Action Alliance are joining the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to launch the “Be the 95%” campaign.

Studies have shown communities that allow gambling experience an increase in substance abuse, mental illness and suicide, violent crime, auto theft, addiction and bankruptcy. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission found that having a casino within 50 miles doubles one’s likelihood to become a problem gambler, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Ohio has already gone too far to turn back from the revenue state officials expect from allowing gambling to flourish. At least, then, officials have acknowledged they owe some effort in preventing some of the human damage that results from the practice.