State of Michigan Hosting Annual Gambling Disorder Symposium

According to a state official, a 42% increase in referrals for people to receive gambling treatment in Michigan is one reason that a Gambling Disorder Symposium is important.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) held the 14th Annual Gambling Disorder Symposium on March 3-4. The event was held virtually.

The title of this year’s symposium, which comes just over a year after Michigan launched online sports betting, is “Gambling: The New Direction.” Michigan sportsbooks have handled more than $4 billion in sports wagers alone from January 2021 through January 2024.

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Online Gaming Brings Need For Problem Gambling Resources

The launch of regulated online gaming in Michigan was accompanied by several safeguards to assist citizens at risk for gambling disorders, including a toll-free number, state-run websites with information on problem gambling, and educational resources. Casinos and sportsbooks also must provide a self-exclusion opportunity for those with a gambling problem who want to remove their access to the activity.

Whether fueled by increased advertising for online betting across the state or just because the activity is now legal, Michigan has seen an increase in people reaching out for help with gambling addictions.

“These platforms engage in a pay-to-play format,” said Alia Lucas, MDHHS gambling disorder program manager. “So by their nature, they’re addicting and difficult to escape. This can lead to severe financial trouble, as well as strained personal and work relationships as people participate in these spaces more than ever before.”

Lucas urges Michigan residents to be aware of the problem signs of gambling disorders and to make use of resources from the state, including partners like the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, which co-hosts the symposium.

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Michigan Gambling Hotline Working Overtime

According to data released by the MDHHS, in excess of 4,400 calls were placed to Michigan’s problem gambling helpline (800-270-7117) in 2021. That’s a figure almost three times the rate that was placed in 2020 when online gambling was not yet legal in the state. There were 420 referrals to receive gambling treatment in 2021, as compared to 295 the previous year.

A press release from the MDHHS mentions the dangers to young people in the state from a barrage of advertisements for online casinos and sports betting. The increased time many people have spent indoors since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in 2020 is also seen as a risk factor, with more people than ever seeking entertainment from mobile devices.

According to data from the State of Michigan, “the rate of problem gambling among high school students is twice that of adults, and someone gambling by age 12 will be four times more likely to develop a gambling addiction.”

The 2024 Symposium placed an emphasis on the impact of online gambling and sports betting, as well as gambling as it relates to young people in the state. Videos like the one below have been produced by the MDHHS to promote awareness of this issue.

If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, or you suspect a gambling disorder, call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

About the Author

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes has written three books about sports. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball. He enjoys writing, running, and lemon bars. He lives near Lake Michigan with his daughters and usually has an orange cream soda nearby.