Online betting leads to surge in calls to Michigan hotline

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) — We’re in the first week of the NFL season. Most people will visit casinos or use their phone to place a bet – no problem 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 ruling in 2018 ended federal bans. In 2019, Governor Gretchen Whitmer legalized sports betting in Michigan.

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

“And the main 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 took me down a really bad road. I embezzled client funds and ended up doing three years in prison because of it,” Burke said.

Now Burke has dedicated his life to helping and advocating 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 “.

These signs include: borrowing money, lying about gambling habits, trying to recoup losses by gambling more, obsessive gambling, and emotional side effects. “This type of addiction happens in four stages,” Burke said.

“The first stage is winning. The second stage is losing. Then despair and despair,” Burke said.

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

“As in my case, many players get involved in some form of taking money that is not their own. 2 out of 3 compulsive gamblers commit an illegal act to get money to gamble with,” Burke said.

The Michigan Problem Gambling Hotline is open for crisis intervention and referral to treatment. He can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-270-7117.

Resources for problem gamblers:

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