While most gamblers enjoy the pastime responsibly, some, unfortunately, take things a little too far and fall into a cycle of gambling addiction. Sadly, most gambling addicts never seek treatment until the devastation has already been done, if they pursue help at all.
The good news is that Michigan officials recognize the potential pitfalls of gambling for such individuals and make help available. As the state has broadened the availability of different forms of gaming — including the new legalization of sports betting and online/mobile casino games — it has also taken steps to beef up such assistance.
Below we detail the various sources you or someone you care about can turn to for help.
Calls for help can be made 24/7
Several million dollars from casino, lottery and horse racing revenue within Michigan are allocated each year to the state’s Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund for various prevention, education, and treatment purposes overseen by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The gambling expansion legislation of December 2019 provides additional funding of $500,000 annually to be taken out of future sports betting revenue and $500,000 from online gaming.
Key among the department’s resources is a 24-hour gambling problem help line, at 1-800-270-7117. Phone counselors are available at any time to confidentially discuss issues, offer guidance, and provide referrals for Michigan residents to obtain help through certified therapists or by attending Gamblers Anonymous meetings.
The DHHS website also provides educational information, such as explaining the difference between responsible gambling and a gambling disorder. A quiz on the website offers one quick tool that can be used to help identify whether someone has a problem.
The compulsive gaming fund also makes treatment services available, through Health Management Systems of America, for those who lack their own resources such as private insurance. A call to the help line can connect an individual to such treatment, if they need it and qualify.
Voluntary casino exclusion is one safeguard
The Michigan Gaming Control Board maintains a list of “Disassociated Persons,” made up of those aware their gambling urge is so severe that they need to be denied access to the state’s three commercial casinos in Detroit.
By placing themselves on the list, individuals voluntarily pledge a lifetime commitment to never visit a Detroit casino. If caught within the casino, they are subject to a criminal trespassing charge and any winnings they have collected on the gaming floor will be confiscated.
Information on the application process for the Disassociated Persons program is available on the gaming board’s website or by calling 1-888-223-3044. In order to complete the process, a personal visit to one of the board’s offices in Detroit or Lansing is required.
Similar to the DHHS website, the gaming board’s site provides additional information on identifying gambling problems and seeking help with them.
New online gaming will have safety options
In entering the world of digital sports betting and casinos, Michigan is requiring that those players be provided tools to help limit their play if they choose, as other states have done.
The legislation calls upon the online sites that offer sports wagers or casino games to include options to limit how much money customers deposit or spend, or how much time they spend on the sites.
It is not known how many players have made use of such tools in the other states where they have been made available, but they are considered an important element to have, considering the easy accessibility and fast speed at which gambling can be done via computer or phone compared to visiting a casino.
The operators of the new gaming sites also provide a means by which individuals can voluntarily exclude themselves from registering accounts and playing.
State association is another resource
The Michigan Association on Problem Gambling is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that primarily serves therapists, educators, and other professionals who work in the field while also raising awareness of the disorder on a statewide basis. It is an affiliate of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
On its website, the Michigan association includes a range of information about gambling addiction issues and pursuit of treatment for them. It has links to multiple tools used in helping identify the severity of an individual’s problem, but the association takes no position on whether gambling is positive or negative for the general public.
The association can be reached at 517-672-6904.
- Gamblers Anonymous provides information on its website about meeting locations across the country for individuals interested in the support group.
- Gam-Anon provides support group meetings and information for the loved ones of individuals who have a gambling problem.
- The National Council on Problem Gambling’s website has wide-ranging information about identifying and treating compulsive gambling.
- GamTalk provides a moderated support forum for those with, or who may have a gambling problem.
- Gamblingtherapy.org offers online forums, support groups, and other information for those with a gambling problem.
Signs of Problem Gambling
Problem gambling can be an insidious habit that sneaks up on families and destroys them from the inside out. It’s important to keep an eye out for the following signs of irresponsible or problematic gambling:
- Not sticking to your set limits: spending or time
- Becoming frustrated or upset when asked to stop gambling
- “Chasing losses”; continuing to bet even when you’ve reached your limit or lost your spending cash
- Illegal behavior
- Borrowing money to gamble
- Lying about gambling
- Spending money that was not set aside specifically for gambling (money you’re not afraid to lose)
There are quite a few more signs of problematic betting habits, but simply put: if gambling causes problems for you or your loved ones, it is problem gambling!