Ohio Sports Betting bill concerns | Gambling ads target Youth & minorities

Senior Reporter

Some forms of entertainment that are permissible to adults must be kept out of children’s sight. With sports betting making its way to Ohio, also come critics who are concern with potentially harmful semantics. Groups are now arguing a bill passed by the Senate this June, as sports betting advertisements appear to target minorities youth. Predatory gambling may make operators an extra buck, but the receiving ends will get a hot burn.

Ohio Sports Betting bill concerns | Gambling ads target Youth & minorities
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Sports betting in Ohio encounters obstacles

Ohio paved the way for sports betting this June with a bill signed by the Senate allowing, now awaiting full legalization in September. While it’s great news for gamblers, there are still some mishaps that need hashing out in order to provide safe and fair conditions for future participants. The issue highlighted this early August comes from two groups opposing predatory gambling advertisements, claiming it is putting underage individuals at risk of illegal betting. Additionally, the current proposal would pour a good portion of incoming revenue into the state’s education fund, which would take away from public education, thus putting minorities at a disadvantage.

Stop Predatory Gambling Executive Director Les Bernal is one of the two major group representatives pressing the case. He backs his argument with research conducted in England, which states that 50% of its underage citizens had sports betting apps on their devices prior to the legalization of sports wagering in the country.

"The Ohio legislature has a responsibility to protect Ohio kids from the harmful advertising and marketing of commercialized gambling operators, just like kids are protected from tobacco advertising," Bernal stated.

Public health officials called for a ban on cigarette ads back in the 1970s in order to protect irresponsible, underage viewers. Most teens and young adults have little to no sense of financial responsibility and are more prone to gambling addictions than those of age. Not to mention, a good chunk of juveniles secretly use their parent’s funds or stolen money for suchlike entertainment. Casinos in surrounding states benefited from over $250 million worth of sports bets in only one month, $50 million of which was reported to come from Southeast Indiana's two Sportsbooks alone.

The argument was backed by Tom Roberts, the former Dayton state representative (now a president of the Ohio Conference of the NAACP). But it’s not only the young ones that were mentioned in the argument, as both of the opposing parties believe that minorities and low-income individuals are targeted just as vigorously.

"They purposely have selected locations in Ohio that are predominantly lower-income communities, which are disproportionately made up of Black and brown folks in the state...There's no debate whether or not the state lottery and state sanctioned gambling preys upon low-income folks,” Bernal said.

Robert also argued that people of color are preyed upon in these markets, and this will continue if gambling is allowed to go as the Senate has proposed it. Both are hoping for stricter regulations in regards to advertising and sports gambling regulations.

The Ohio Professional Sports Coalition commented on the issue earlier this week:

“For many years Ohioans who bet on sports have used unregulated offshore gaming sites that are beyond the reach of agencies established to protect consumers from predatory practices. What our coalition recommends and what the legislature is considering is a law that puts the respected and experienced Ohio Casino Control Commission in charge of issuing a limited number of mobile and retail licenses to credentialed and experienced gaming operators who will adhere to regulations and built-in consumer protections that will be enforced by the commission. Legal and strongly regulated sports gaming is already in effect in 22 states, including all but one of the states bordering Ohio. Ohioans will be better served and protected by a system enacted by law which regulates sports betting and enforces consumer protections rather than the underground, unregulated situation that currently exists.”

Toll on public education in Ohio

As for the distribution of funds, Roberts made it clear that the proposal that would send the funds new revenue into the state education fund would take away from public schools in Ohio, which was also a concern brought up in the debate. Roberts claimed that sports betting would pull money out of the Ohio Lottery, which currently supports public education in the state.

“For me, the issue becomes one of inequity and disparity and one of public education, which needs to be a very strong foundation of the state of Ohio, and public education is very weak at this point," Roberts spoke on the issue.

The ongoing debate shows consideration towards the presented matters, as all parties are putting in equal efforts to ensure maximum safety before sports betting unravels in Ohio this September. And while it’s impossible to entirely prevent underage individuals from partaking in illegal gambling, tighter regulations may lessen the number of potential participants. As for minorities - there is already a massive issue of problem gambling among low-income persons in the U.S., which is linked to the environment and other underlying issues. Adults have full discretion when it comes to choices of where they spend their funds.

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