For the past year, Ohio has once again been leading the way in providing support for those dealing with problem gambling through a resource called the “Warm Transfer Line.”
When individuals call Ohio’s Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966, they will be asked at the end of the call if they’d like to be connected with a problem gambling specialist. The program is currently live nights and weekends and calls that come in during the work day will be transferred to the specialists’ voicemails for a return call.
Ohio is the only state to implement this effort and so far, it’s paying off. Over the past year, 200 people have had helpful and supportive conversations with these problem gambling experts and many have been linked successfully to treatment services and peer support such as Gambler’s Anonymous.
“Some call because they are on their way home from a venue and wanted to talk to someone,” said Ken Buzzelli, clinical social worker and one of eight problem gambling clinicians around the state who field these calls. “Many of the calls are shorter and then we schedule a follow up call; however, I’ve been on a call with some folks from a half hour to an hour to work with them during a crisis.”
Buzzelli said the language used by callers typically revolves around hope.
“If I can just win this, it will change my life.” “This will get me ahead and then I’ll stop.”
He has talked to a wide range of people on the Warm Transfer Line – people in their early 20s to people in their mid-70s. “Problem gambling can affect anyone. People are using gambling as partly a financial strategy, but even more – there’s so much excitement and anticipation. Whether or not you win or lose,”
Buzzelli has been connected to several clients through the Warm Transfer Line and has been able to help them through their addiction. He says that he knows clients are on the right path when they:
- Stabilize and are able to get their bills paid up or have a plan to do so
- Implement balanced living that doesn’t involve gambling or gaming
- Establish new hobbies and activities to shift where they receive their excitement from
- Enforce lifestyle changes that may involve things as big as ending relationships to as small as taking a different route home to avoid temptation
Buzzelli is one of more than 40 clinicians who hold the state’s GAMB credential to treat problem gambling.
“Problem gambling can result in broken lives — I’ve worked with people who have had to declare bankruptcy, some got divorced, many lost 401Ks and spent tuitions that were saved for their children,” he said.
But he does think the Warm Transfer Line is making a big difference.
“Some of these adults would have never found their way here. We need to strike while the iron’s hot. If I have you on the phone and I can schedule another connection with you – a next meeting or a call – then we can keep the work going,” he said. “It is exciting and has been a great learning experience for all of us.”
If you think you or someone you know might be struggling with a problem with gambling help is always available by calling the free, 24/7 helpline at