Online Gambling and Sports Betting: Maybe Not a Great Bet

MDHHS reports triple the calls for problem gambling help in the last year.

It’s been one year since Michigan lawmakers legalized sports betting and online gambling, and it appears the seemingly nonstop barrage of radio and television commercials aren’t the only problem for Michiganders.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reports that more than 4,400 calls were made to Michigan’s problem gambling helpline in 2021 — a number nearly triple those received in 2020, the year before online gambling was approved. Referrals for people to receive gambling treatment also grew significantly, from 295 referrals in 2020 to 420 referrals last year, a 42 percent increase.

(For youth, MDHHS says the risk of problem gambling has also risen in accordance, in part due to the rise of online gaming and teens’ urge for virtual connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. MDHHS says 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.)

That said, it’s probably a good time to check out MDHHS’s 14th Annual Gambling Disorder Symposium, “Gambling: The New Direction,” which will be held virtually on Thursday, March 3, through Friday, March 4. Says Alia Lucas, MDHHS gambling disorder program manager: “Resources are available at the symposium to identify and learn about the steps you can take if you or a family member are struggling with a gambling disorder.” Search “Gambling New Direction” at to learn more and register.

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