Addiction specialists: Watch for signs of problem gambling


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As Michigan launches online sports betting and gaming, addiction prevention specialists warn the move could lead to an increase in irresponsible gambling.

“It provides total anonymity,” Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Gambling Disorder Prevention and Treatment Services Program Specialist Alia Lucas told News 8. “It doesn’t require the company of anyone else and it provides an environment that can allow that behavior to exacerbate and it can become even more problematic.”

Lucas says she expects the option to gamble at your fingertips rather than inside a casino will market toward a younger demographic.

“We’re also pushing awareness in that regards,” she explained. “What does that look like in your child, your son or daughter, your niece or nephew or a friend? If you happen to be a young adult yourself?”

Those concerns are also being acknowledged by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Each year, $500,000 in state tax revenue generated from these operations will go toward the state’s Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund.

The state has also long had a gambling problem helpline people can call to talk to a specialist who can help assess their needs. 

“They’re then referred to one of our panel clinicians throughout the state of Michigan and they’re available to see up to 12 free sessions of gambling disorder treatment for themselves as well as their family members,” Lucas said. “It’s not just an impulse disorder. It’s not just an issue of self-control. It’s an addiction as with any other addiction and there’s a required method of treatment.”

If you or someone you know may have a gambling addiction, please reach out for help. The toll-free number is 1.800.270.7117

The state lists the following ways to gamble responsibly, whether it’s online or in person:

  • Gambling is entertainment
  • You’re paying for your entertainment, not to make money
  • Be sure that gambling isn’t your only leisure activity
  • Bring friends
  • Remain realistic
  • Stay away from ATMs 
  • Don’t bet your belongings
  • Know your limits: money and time
  • Never borrow money to gamble
  • Remember to take breaks often
  • Check yourself
  • Be careful with alcohol

You can also find more prevention resources online, including a disassociated list people can report to in order to be monitored by the control board at Detroit casinos. You can find that list at

When the state on Tuesday announced the start date for online gaming and sports betting, nine operators had been approved to host it. Since then, a tenth, the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in the Upper Peninsula, was granted approval.

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