Sports betting is now legal in Ohio. How does this affect students?


Gambling has been around for years, dating back to the Paleolithic period, before written history. The earliest six-sided dice date to about 3000 B.C.E. Today, taking risky actions and playing games of chance for money are even more prevalent. World gambling statistics show that approximately 26% of the population gamble, meaning around 1.6 billion people worldwide gamble. For the twelve months ending in September 2022, sports betting in particular generated $4.78 billion in revenue nationwide (a near 97% increase from 2021). 

Prior to 2009, most types of straightforward gambling were illegal in Ohio. It was not until 2009 that Ohio legalized gambling when voters passed a ballot initiative that placed four casinos in the state’s major cities — Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo. The first casino opened in 2012. At that same time, the Ohio legislature chose to allow the placement of slot machine-like video lottery terminals at the seven racetracks in the state, now calling them racinos. A law adding sports betting to the state’s gambling options was signed by Governor Mike DeWine in December 2021, with the full launch occurring on Jan. 1, 2023.

The decision to enter the gambling space has been lucrative for the state of Ohio. Taxed at a rate of 33%, Ohio’s four casinos generated $1.0 billion in annual gross revenue in 2022 added $333 million in tax revenue for the Buckeye State. The legalization of online sports betting is starting out to be half as profitable as the casinos for Ohio. In January and February of 2023 alone, Ohio online sports betting, which is taxed at 10%, generated $209 million and $83 million in total gross revenue, respectively, or $20 million and $8 million for the state.

Some states have refrained from legalizing gambling due to studies proving its negative effects. With the minimum age being 21 for sports betting in Ohio, many young people — some even younger than 21 — are now taking part in it. Because of this, some professionals have begun to study youth and gambling. According to the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors, between 60% to 80% of high schoolers say they have gambled for money in the past year, and up to 6% are addicted to gambling. “Young people are significantly at higher risk of developing gambling disorders than adults, in part because their brains are not fully developed,” Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of the UCLA Gambling Studies Program, said.

While there are definite drawbacks to legalized gambling, there are a few benefits that have been noted. Gambling activities can provide an opportunity for an increase in social networking, creativity and problem solving skills. Also, some young people argue that gambling is simply a form of entertainment, and online sports betting has just brought it to their fingertips. Some of the most common sports betting apps are DraftKings, BetMGM, FanDuel and Fliff. An 18-year-old UAHS senior, who likes to gamble on basketball and football games, admits his favorite app is FanDuel, which has over 12 million registered users. Because the minimum age to bet on sports in Ohio is 21, Arlingtonian is not publishing the names of students interviewed for this article.

“I joined about a year ago, and I only play for big games,” the student said. “It adds to the excitement of the game.”

Another sports betting app that is popular with young people is Fliff, which advertises itself as a social sportsbook, pioneering play-for-fun app. Fliff integrates promotional plays and loyalty rewards to expand the social experience and offer all sports fans the opportunity to earn and win prizes. Another UAHS senior uses Fliff on occasion and bets money depending on his confidence about the game.

“I usually bet between $5 and $50, but it varies,” the student said.

There is arguably a conundrum with the legalization of different forms of gambling. The tax revenue generated from the activities adds to a state’s funding, and the entertainment that gambling provides can be exciting. At the same time, however, it can be argued that it is difficult to restrict underage participants and prevent addictive tendencies. Despite these drawbacks, gambling probably is not going anywhere.