While individuals are required to be at least 21 to participate in Ohio sports betting, Kentucky will set the legal age at 18.
As a result, young Ohio residents between the ages of 18 and 21 have the potential to travel south to Kentucky and register for online sports betting applications.
This situation poses a new challenge for the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) concerning the well-being of its younger population.
Ohio’s Proactive Measures to Safeguard Younger Residents
Kentucky became the latest neighboring state of Ohio to allow sports betting, following Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and Michigan. However, other states also set the legal age for sports betting at 21.
Prior to the launch of sports betting, surveys conducted by the OCCC revealed that people aged 18-24 are at the highest risk of developing gambling problems.
A recent survey from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conducted in 2023 also found that 67 percent of students living on campus engage in betting activities frequently.
The OCCC is known for being one of the most active gaming commissions in the U.S., particularly in implementing best practices for operators. The agency has taken into consideration the higher risk younger individuals face in developing gambling addictions.
Recognizing the potential risks for its younger residents, the OCCC focused on implementing measures to protect the population from problem gambling behaviors.
According to Jessica Frank, the director of communications for the OCCC, the agency can’t prevent individuals aged 18 to 20 from traveling to Kentucky to place wagers.
However, it has implemented various programs and services for all age groups to address the risks and negative consequences associated with sports betting.
They include the establishment of support networks, operator regulations, and educational campaigns.
“We have built up our team of counselors and individuals that can treat people with a gambling disorder,”We have also just recently launched a Telehealth program for people seeking treatment in areas of the state that are located far from providers.” said Franks.
To ensure that Ohioans recognize their gambling issues and take the first step toward recovery, the OCCC has launched various education campaigns specifically focused on sports betting.
These campaigns aim to educate people about the potential risks and promote responsible gambling behaviors in Ohio.
For example, the “pause before you play” campaign, which incorporates responsible gaming messaging, has been tailored to different segments of at-risk groups through collaboration with focus groups.
In terms of operator regulations, the OCCC has developed standards for sportsbook operators’ marketing practices.
On several occasions, it has taken actions, including posing fines, against Ohio sportsbook operators found to violate messaging and advertising regulations.
“We were very clear with operators when it came to what our standards were with responsible gaming messaging and what we needed to see, and when we didn’t see that, we had to take administrative action with those operators,” said Franks.
While young people between 18 and 21 may sign up for sportsbook apps in Kentucky, upon returning to Ohio, they will be unable to use the same sports betting app due to age verification and geolocation technology employed by sportsbooks.
For the OCCC, this restriction acts as a built-in safeguard against compulsive betting for teenagers within Ohio’s state lines.