Online betting leads to spike in calls for Michigan’s gambling helpline

1-3% of Americans will develop a gambling problem
As the industry expanded, so did gambling addictions.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 10:29 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2022 at 12:01 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - We are in week one of the NFL season. Most people will head to casinos or get on their phone to place a bet – no issues with overspending and they know when to stop. Others will develop a gambling problem.

Legal sports betting in the United States was only allowed in Nevada until a Supreme Court decision in 2018 ended federal bans. In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer legalized sports betting in Michigan.

As the industry expanded, so did gambling addictions. So, where are we now? According to the Michigan Gambling Problem Helpline, their calls have tripled.

“And the biggest reason for that was, of course, the pandemic,” said Michael Burke of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling and the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Years before the pandemic and legal sports betting, Burke was addicted to gambling.

“I started gambling and it led me down a very bad road. I embezzled funds from clients and ended up doing three years in prison because of that,” said Burke.

Now, Burke has devoted his life to helping and being an advocate for people with gambling addictions. Burke said there are signs that show a person has gone from “placing bets for fun to a serious addiction.”

Those signs include: borrowing money, lying about gambling habits, trying to recover losses by gambling more, obsessive gambling, and emotional side effects. “This kind of addiction comes in four stages,” Burke said.

“First stage is winning. Second stage is losing. Then desperation and hopelessness,” said Burke.

“Only 10% of gamblers in serious trouble will seek help” and about 18% of gamblers will place bets on NFL games this season.

“As in my case, many gamblers get involved in some form of taking money that isn’t theirs. 2 out of 3 compulsive gamblers will commit an illegal act to get money with which to gamble,” said Burke.

The Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline is open for crisis intervention and referral to treatment. It can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-270-7117.

Resources for Problem Gamblers:

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