During the global COVID-19 pandemic, the activity for all online-related businesses has peaked. This has especially applied to online gambling as the traffic has soared all over the world. With people mostly gambling from the comfort of their own homes, some consequences followed.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has reported a new record-high of calls to the official phone help-line for problem gambling. This comes only a short time after online gambling including sports betting, casino games, and online poker has become legal in The Wolverine State.
In February 2021, the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline received 563 gambling addiction calls, which is more than twice the number of calls placed in December 2020 prior to the launch of online gaming in Michigan.
Michelle Malkin, a Ph.D. candidate studying problem gambling at Michigan State University’s school of justice, was cited by the Lansing State Journal as likely culprit of that large spike in calls.
With brick-and-mortar casinos running at a limited capacity due to the restrictions of the pandemic, the surge of revenue can be largely attributed to the flourishing online gambling market.
State governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill to legalize online gambling in Michigan in late 2020. Regulated online sportsbooks and online casinos only launched in late January 2021, the first online poker site in MI went live in February.
In the first month of the new year, the total gross receipts of all internet gaming operators surpassed $29.3 million. However, that number skyrocketed to more than $79.7 million in February and further peaked one month later with more than $95 million.
During the first full month after the launch of online gambling in Michigan, the calls to the helpline jumped above 500 according to information provided by the MDHHS. Verified numbers remained high for March as The Wolverine State continued its rapid ascent across all regulated US markets. The respective information for April has not been published yet.
The industry has pledged to do its part to ensure a safer gambling environment. Online gambling and sports betting operators in Michigan contribute $1 million a year to the Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund. This boosts the annual budget of around $4 million up to $5 million.
Problem gamblers can access the 24-hour toll-free hotline 1-800-270-7117 in order to connect with trained counselors and treatment providers. They will learn about the signs of problem gambling and prevention techniques during the call.
The number of people dealing with a gambling addiction and don’t seek any official help is, however, likely significantly higher than the reported numbers. In order to combat gambling addiction, the state prevention program has plenty of avenues available.
Problem gamblers can request that the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MCGB) ban them from licensed Detroit casinos via the Michigan Disassociated Persons List. Likewise, a ban for online gaming platforms, sports betting, or limitations with regards to the amount they can play with each day is available as well.
Comprehensive treatment services for compulsive gamblers are also offered thanks to the statewide Gambling Treatment Program. Individuals and families needing assistance with a problem and/or compulsive gambling can be referred to a trained treatment provider for assessment and treatment.
More than 300 admissions for gambling disorder treatment were granted in the state of Michigan in 2020 according to the official report by the MDHHS.
All licensed online gambling operators in Michigan display the logo for Responsible Gaming on their website. The toll-free Help-line of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Gambling Disorder Help-line can be accessed via 800-270-7117.