Michigan helpline calls increased in February


LANSING, Michigan (AP) – Calls to the Michigan helpline for people struggling with gambling addiction increased earlier this year, and researchers believe timing is tied to the onset of online gambling .

Michigan’s Problem Gambling hotline received 563 calls regarding gambling addiction in February, more than five times the total for the same month in 2020.

The Lansing State Journal reported that the increase followed strong interest in online gambling and sports betting launched in January.

“Casinos currently have limited capacity due to the pandemic,” said Michelle Malkin, a doctoral student studying problem gambling at Michigan State University. “The only thing that could really (explain) this is the growth of online gambling. Because that’s really the only big change that’s happened in Michigan.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bipartisan set of laws at the end of 2019 to allow online gambling. Interest has been high since.

According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, online operators raised nearly $ 260 million in gross revenue from January through March.

The helpline connects people with counselors and treatment options, as well as information on how to spot and prevent problem gambling.

Alia Lucas, a gambling disorder program specialist at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said the COVID-19 pandemic and the addition of online options may make it harder for people to fight problem gambling.

“With the changing landscape and the accessibility of gaming, the concern now is that an individual can sit at home on their couch with their phone and play as they please,” said Lucas.

Online gambling means the state has more money to invest in drug addiction resources. Lucas said the Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund will get $ 1 million a year from online gambling and sports betting.

“We are not anti-gambling,” she said. “There are a ton of people who can play and have a good time without it compromising their lives, but we want to make sure that individuals are aware of the circumstances in which there may be issues and what to do if those issues arise. present. . “

Michigan Problem Gambling Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-270-7117. The service is confidential.

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