Michigan’s officials warn of problem gambling after legalization of online betting

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s the nature of gambling — you win some, you lose some.

But with more opportunity to lose, there’s more opportunity for problems.

“Anytime we establish a new gambling venue, that means with it, is going to come new gambling problems,” said Michael Burke, Executive Director of the Michigan Association on Problem Gaming.

And things can go bad quickly. Gambling addiction affects around three percent of players and experts say it should be treated like any other mental health disorder.

“It’s called a hidden addiction,” Burke said. “We hide it from family, we hide it from friends … It is treated as a mental health issue and what’s interesting about it is it’s included in the same section, on the same page with substance abuse.”

Now that gambling is available to everybody ages 18 and up in the state at the touch of a button, there are concerns more people will become addicted. Some of the most commonly associated demographics with gambling problems are veterans and the elder generation — but with the movement towards tech, Alia Lucas, Michigan’s Gambling Disorder Specialist in the Department of Health and Human Services, says she’s most worried about the younger generation.

“The concern is that we will have a younger demographic of individuals that have access to a wider variety of gambling before they’ve had an opportunity to learn the risk associated with it,” Lucas said.

There are many different signs of problem gambling. The first, is lying, whether it’s about how much was bet or how much was lost. Another is what’s known as chasing, which is betting larger sums or betting more frequently, to make up for bets that were previously lost.

Burke reminds everybody that gambling isn’t something to be afraid of, rather something people need to be in control of.

“Set a limit, gamble with other people and never lie about it,” Burke said. “If you can do that… then you shouldn’t have a problem.”

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