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One year after legalized sports and online betting, Michigan hosts symposium to address increase in problem gambling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Feb. 25, 2022                                                             

CONTACT: Lynn Sutfin, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. - One year after Michigan lawmakers legalized sports betting and online gambling, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is hosting its 14th Annual Gambling Disorder Symposium, "Gambling: The New Direction," virtually on Thursday, March 3, through Friday, March 4.

For Michigan residents, the additional access to online gambling and sports betting 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.

"These platforms engage in a pay-to-play format, so by their nature they're addicting and difficult to escape. 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," said 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."

In the first year since the legalization of sports betting and online gambling in Michigan, more than 4,400 calls were made to Michigan's problem gambling helpline in 2021. This is nearly triple the number of calls 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% increase.

While social gambling isn't a problem for most, for some it provides a sense of control and escape which, over time, can affect other areas of life. For youth, this risk is especially concerning with the rise of online gaming and virtual connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. 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. Additionally, more than two years into a global pandemic, the impact of social distancing has left many with idle time, frustrations and anxiety.

There is no fee to attend the virtual symposium; however, registration is required, and attendee registration ends at 5 p.m., Tuesday, March 1. The symposium will address the impact of online gambling and sports betting, participants will gain an understanding of adolescent gambling problems, learn the effective use of self-exclusion as a harm reduction strategy, and broaden awareness about diversity, inclusion and equity in community gambling wellness.

If you suspect that you or someone you love may be struggling with a gambling disorder, the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline, 800-270-7117, is open for crisis intervention and referral to treatment. Trained and experienced counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide immediate help to address issues related to gambling disorder, including screening services and referrals to treatment or support groups.

Hosted in partnership with the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, residents can learn more about the Gambling Disorder Symposium including how to register at

To learn more about problem gambling in Michigan, visit

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