Holiday Season Brings Increased Risk of Problem Gambling

Contact: James McCurtis, Jr. (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

December 17, 2007

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) warns Michigan residents of the risks of problem gambling during the holiday season. The increased financial challenges of holiday gift giving and celebrations lead many to turn to gambling to help payoff debts.

A recent Western Michigan University study of gambling behaviors in Michigan found that an estimated 300,000 Michigan residents age 18 and over reported a lifetime gambling problem. The number of residents with a current gambling problem is estimated at 146,854. Of that number, about 66,000 are estimated to be probable pathological gamblers. Further, two out of every three problem gamblers are found to reside in Detroit or the surrounding regions.

"Problem gambling is a serious problem with far reaching implications in the lives of families," said Donald Allen, Director of MDCH's Office of Drug Control Policy. "It exists when people no longer gamble for entertainment, but compulsively and for sums of money which they cannot afford to lose."

The most common types of gambling reported were lottery (51 percent), casino (34 percent), charitable group events (26 percent) and office pools and 50/50 raffles (24 percent). The highest rates of problem gambling were for those who participated in numbers games (14 percent), non-charitable group events (13 percent), and non-casino events (7 percent).

MDCH offers confidential, 24/7 assistance at 1-800-270-7117. Assistance can also be obtained by visiting www.gambleresponsibly.org. This site assists both individuals who may have a problem with gambling and others who want to learn how to avoid getting in over their heads. It also serves as a resource for friends and family members who may be concerned with the gambling habits of a loved one.