The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is starting a Problem Gambling Addiction Program to address criminal charges that stem from problem gambling. This is one of the first such court programs in the state, and the largest in the country.
“A primary goal of our Court is to help individuals overcome the difficulties that brought them into the justice system,” says Administrative and Presiding Judge Brendan J. Sheehan. “By treating a person’s problem gambling addiction, we hope to eliminate the source of these criminal acts.”
The Problem Gambling Addiction Program starts just months before Ohio begins legalized in-person and online sports betting on January 1, 2023.
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, the term refers to the urge to gamble, despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. People who suffer from the condition of pathological gambling may continue to gamble even after they have developed social, economic, interpersonal or legal problems as a result of the gambling. According to the 2017 Ohio Gambling Survey, 10.3% of the general adult population can be categorized as low-risk, moderate-risk, or problem gamblers. An estimated 0.9% of Ohio adults are problem gamblers.
The Court is collaborating with Recovery Resources and Ohio for Responsible Gambling (ORG) partners to develop this program. ORG partners include the Ohio Lottery Commission, the Ohio Casino Control Commission, the Ohio State Racing Commission, and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS). OhioMHAS serves as the resource partner for the initiative and the lead agency responsible for prevention and treatment of problem gambling.
“We are pleased to see this Problem Gambling Addiction Program launched in Cuyahoga County,” said OhioMHAS Director Lori Criss.“Governor Mike DeWine’s focus on addressing mental illness and addictions for overall wellness has changed thousands of lives for the better. This program will encourage recovery for those with gambling problems.”
Specially trained Court probation officers, known as Gambling Recovery Officers, will administer the Problem Gambling Addiction Program. A gambling assessment will be used to identify those individuals who may have problem gambling. They will work in conjunction with Recovery Resources, and certified counselors will use programming to help individuals break the negative cycle of gambling. The program can accommodate 50 clients.
If a person successfully completes the program, they may have their felony charge dismissed to avoid having a felony conviction of their record. Candidates for the Problem Gambling Addiction Program will be referred by the Judge assigned to their case.