(WKBN) – When sports betting was legalized last week in Ohio, 2 percent of all sports betting tax money was also allocated toward problem sports gamblers. That will be about $200,000 a year on top of the $4 million a year generated from the 2 percent on casino gambling. One area gambling addiction experts would like that money to be spent on is in-patient, residential programs dedicated only to gambling addictions.
Michael Burke is the author of “Never Enough: One Lawyer’s True Story of How He Gambled His Career Away.”
“I ended up being sentenced for embezzlement of a client’s funds,” he said.
Burke now helps problem gamblers, and the one thing he says that’s needed most are brick and motor, in-patient recovery centers like those for drug addicts and alcoholics.
“They’re 30-day intensive therapy, education. It gets the alcoholic out of that environment. That’s what we need for the gambler,” he said.
“It’s one of those addictions that can fly under the radar for so long,” said Derek Longmeier, executive director of the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio.
Longmeier says Ohio’s commitment to dealing with problem gambling is the nation’s best.
“So nationally we’re referred to as the ‘Ohio model’ or what other states should be doing,” Longmeier said.
But still, Ohio has but one in-patient, residential treatment facility for problem gamblers. It’s at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland. If someone’s a non-veteran, there’s no such program.
“Opening up an in-patient treatment program for gambling for non-veterans is one of the things that hopefully won’t be too far off. As we look at resources that are available, that’s pretty pricey,” Longmeier said.
Longmeier says it’ll cost a couple million dollars to pay for such a facility but he hopes it can be done in the next year.
Burke says they’re needed badly.
“We know what’s coming down the road and it’s going to be a lot of people in need of treatment,” Burke said.
Burke says the money to build and operate in-patient recovery centers is coming from the gambling industry — it’s generating the money. He also wants all treatment to be free because he says if gamblers had money, they’d be gambling it and not spending it on treatment.