Calls to the Michigan gambling problem helpline nearly tripled last year

WVPE 88.1
 
Calls to the Michigan gambling problem helpline nearly tripled last year
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One year after Michigan legalized internet casino gambling and online sports betting, more people are seeking help for gambling disorders. The stress and isolation of COVID-19 compounded the issue, health official say.

MDHHS is also hosting next week on online gambling and sports betting, which is both used to train and educate mental health and social work professionals and is open to the public.

In the year since Michigan legalized online casino gambling and sports betting, some 4,400 calls poured into the state’s problem gambling hotline. That’s nearly triple the calls received in 2020, before online betting was legal.

The combination of COVID-19 stress and isolation, as well as a barrage of online betting advertising and opportunities, “presents an increased risk for gambling disorders to develop – particularly for younger participants who may be anxious, frustrated or isolated, and seeking a greater connection as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” state health officials said in a statement Friday.

“These platforms engage in a pay-to-play format, so by their nature they’re addicting and difficult to escape,” said Alia Lucas, gambling disorder program manager at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “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.”

In the first year of legalization, Michigan’s been a lucrative market for online gambling operators. People bet more than $3.7 billion in internet casino gambling and online sports betting in 2021, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. But the real bottom line was $1.1 billion: that’s how much online betting operators made, after you deduct the value of free play incentives they gave out as promotions to bettors. Some was paid in taxes, fees and other payments to the state, the city of Detroit, and tribal governing bodies.

At the same time, referrals for gambling treatment climbed more than 40%, according to the state, from 295 referrals in 2020 to 420 referrals last year. The health department is encouraging those who have a gambling problem, or know someone who does, to call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline, 800-270-7117.

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