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

For Michigan residents, the added access to online gambling and sports betting opportunities presents an increased risk of developing gambling disorders – especially for young participants who may be anxious, frustrated or isolated, and who seek a greater connection in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These platforms engage in a paid format, so by their nature they are addictive and difficult to escape. This can lead to serious financial problems, as well as strained personal and professional relationships, as people participate more than ever in these spaces,” said Alia Lucas, MDHHS Gambling Disorders Program Manager. gambling disorder.”

In the first year since legalizing online sports betting and gambling in Michigan, over 4,400 calls were made to the Michigan Problem Gambling Hotline in 2021. 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 increased significantly, from 295 referrals in 2020 to 420 referrals last year, a 42% increase.

Although social gaming is not a problem for most, for some it provides a sense of control and escape which over time can affect other areas of life. For young people, this risk is of particular concern 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 who gambles by age 12 will be four times more likely to develop a gambling addiction. the onset of a global pandemic, the impact of social distancing has left many people with downtime, frustrations and anxiety.

There is no charge to attend the virtual symposium; however, registration is required and participant registration closes at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1. The symposium will address the impact of online gambling and sports betting, attendees will gain an understanding of adolescent gambling problems, learn the effective use of self-exclusion as a harm reduction strategy, and expand awareness to diversity, inclusion and equity in community gaming well-being.

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