AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The number of Ohioans with a gambling problem has increased, and some worry that a new upgrade to the Ohio Lottery could put more gamblers at risk.
Ohio now has 76,400 problem gamblers, that’s up from 46,200 people just four years ago. Fifteen percent of those suffering live in Mahoning County, according to the Ohio Department of Health and Addiction Services.
Ohio Lottery is now attempting to adapt to those who don’t carry cash anymore by installing cashless machines across the state. It’s trying to make it easier for people to play.
About 6,000 machines across the state are going online with this feature over the next few weeks. This is part of a multi-phase process the Ohio lottery is doing to modernize its processing.
The second phase will be next year when behind-the-counter lottery tickets can be purchased everywhere cashless as well.
Lynne Burkey, a counselor at Meridian Health, says that this change can put even more people at risk of developing a gambling problem.
With the update, cashless machines will have limit each card to $100 every day. Burkey said that’s not enough to curtail problem gamblers.
“If you multiply that out by a year, you could go in debt well over $100,000,” Burkey said.
John Colla, of Colla’s Store in Austintown, says people from all walks of life are gambling.
“I have people that’ll buy $1 and some that’ll spend $50 or $100 on tickets. It all depends basically on your income,” he said.
Stores like Colla’s make a nickel for every dollar spent on a ticket.