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It’s been nearly two decades, but Kirtus Thurston still remembers the hustle and bustle of the Super Bowl on Sunday when he placed his bet through a bookie. He bet on which team would win. point spread. Whoever scores first.
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Kirtus Thurston, Oakland County resident and recovering gambling addict: “I always thought I was going to win it back.” (Photo offered)
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What if he lost a thousand dollars or more? “I always bet because I always thought I was going to win it back,” he said.
Thurston, a 49-year-old recovering gambler who lives in Oakland County, said he last placed a bet 19 years ago because his OCD nearly ruined his life.
But he said as the Super Bowl approaches this Sunday, a year after Michigan legalized online gambling and sports betting, he worries about the impact on the lives of others. It’s the everyday mother of bets. An estimated 23 million Americans wagered $4.3 billion on last year’s Super Bowl, including a record 7.3 million online wagers. Analysts predict that this year’s race will generate more online bets.
Research shows that the vast majority of people bet safely within their means. But for those struggling with addiction, the ubiquity of online gambling marketing and smartphone apps could make Super Sunday a draining day.
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“In the Super Bowl, some people’s lives hang in the balance,” Thurston said. “For people who owe a lot of money, this is an opportunity to get it all back or break even – or owe more.”
While it may be too early to gauge the social impact of online gambling on Michigan, early feedback is troubling.
The state recorded 4,463 calls to problem hotlines in 2021, nearly triple the number in 2020, the year before online gambling was approved. The state has seen a 42% increase in referrals for gambling treatment: from 295 referrals in 2020 to 420 last year. The actual number of people with gambling problems is almost certainly much higher, as it is estimated that only one in 10 people with a gambling disorder seek treatment.
According to Alia Lucas, a gambling disorder specialist with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan spent about $4 million last year from lottery proceeds and gambling tax revenue on gambling programs. fight against problem gambling. This includes approximately $1.2 million in informational radio and television ads that highlight the warning signs of gambling and where to get help, as well as funding for gambling counsellors, annual gambling workshops and contracts to support regional gambling coordinators.
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Calls to the State Gambling Helpline (1-800-270-7117) are answered by trained clinicians. Callers who meet at least 5 of the 13 indicators can determine if someone has a gambling disorder and they will be referred to a counselor who specializes in the treatment of gambling addiction. The state supports 12 treatments.
But the state’s website shows a critical shortage of such experts, with 64 of Michigan’s 83 counties without advisers. There is only one councilor listed for the entire Upper Peninsula. Several contact numbers listed have been disconnected and counselors listed at other clinics are no longer available. The driving school responded to a contact call.
Lucas called the lack of counselors in many counties an “ongoing problem”, adding that many people who need treatment will be treated via remote telehealth sessions if there are no counselors nearby. .
She said MDHHS stepped up its informational publicity about problem gambling ahead of the Super Bowl, but acknowledged it would be hard to compete with the eye-catching casino and sports betting ads that flooded the airwaves during the Super Bowl. past year, including a series of broadcasts via DraftKings. and BetMGM, among others. Betting platforms show advertisements during football broadcasts.
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Research shows that most people can bet for fun without causing harm. But for a small number of people, gambling has become an obsessive disorder that has ruined their lives and their savings. Here are some warning signs for players and their families:
Gambling sites seem to be ubiquitous, not only dominating advertisements during games, but also infiltrating other corners of the sports world. Last March, Fox Sports Detroit changed its name to Bally Sports Detroit. Last fall, BetMGM was named an NFL-sanctioned sports betting operator. In January, Caesars Sportsbook & Casino entered into a sponsorship agreement with Michigan State University to become the “Official Sportsbook Partner of Spartan Athletics”.
Asked by Bridge about problem gambling, a DraftKings spokesperson cited a notice on its website advising users to stick to responsible gambling, which included the statement: “It is important to remember that you should not bet only within a range you can afford and always set reasonable bets.From the moment you open your account to the moment you claim your winnings, our priority is to ensure that you gamble safely and responsibly .
It also includes a series of tips for responsible gaming, including setting an affordable betting budget, setting time limits for betting, and warning against “loss hunting”.
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BetMGM offers a similar responsible gambling warning on its website, while touting its problem gambling awareness efforts.
Certainly, for the vast majority of people, gambling or sports betting is a harmless pastime that is unlikely to lead to harmful personal consequences.
But for at least 1% of the US adult population – or about 75,000 in Michigan – gambling can lead to addiction, which is linked to higher rates of depression, bankruptcy, divorce and suicide, the pathological gambler average being in debt with nearly $40,000. A growing body of research has highlighted why gambling addiction is so powerful: it activates reward circuits in the brain in the same way as drugs like alcohol or cocaine.
Research also shows that the closer the temptation, the greater the risk. A 2005 study found that adults living within 10 miles of a casino were 90% more likely to be problem gamblers.
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“Looking at our phones now, the stakes are at 6 inches,” said Michael Burke, executive director of the Michigan Association for Problem Gambling, a Portage-based nonprofit.
Burke cited New Jersey, the first state to allow online gambling in 2013, as a harbinger of what Michigan could face. In 2017, the Center for Gambling Research at Rutgers University released results showing that the prevalence of gambling disorders among all residents who gamble was 6.3%, three times higher than survey results for d other population samples. Online gambling rates were much higher: 10.5% reported having a gambling disorder and 21.6% reported being problem gamblers.
Of course, there is another aspect of online gambling’s impact on Michigan: the amount of government revenue it generates.
Online casinos and sportsbooks generated $1.4 billion in revenue in Michigan in the first year of online gambling. Internet casino games generated $1.1 billion, while online sports betting generated $292 million, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Michigan has become the third state to generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue from online casino gaming and poker, according to PlayMichigan.com, a website covering gaming in the state.
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Online gambling and sports betting operators paid the state $209 million in Internet gambling taxes and fees in 2021, nearly $60 million in Detroit and $22 million in tribal governing bodies.
Former state Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo, who drafted legislation to legalize online gambling, told Bridge the return on state revenue has been better than expected. Iden left the legislature in 2020, a year ago as head of government affairs at sports betting data giant Sportradar.
“We know that as the game continues to grow, you’re going to see more people hooked up,” Eden said. “We want to make sure we treat them and help them.”
In Genesee County, Steven Brooks has been counseling people with gambling addictions for 15 years. These include the many people who have lost their jobs, marriages, or racked up credit card debt due to the habit.
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“People lose money and then they start chasing the losses. That’s when they get in serious trouble.”
Over the past year, Brooks said he’s seen a new category of customers — online gamers, many of whom are young adults.
“I think it’s going to be a nightmare,” Brooks said. “People don’t have to go anywhere to play now. They can do it on their lunch break if they want. You’re going to see more young people in their 20s. money to lose.”
Thurston, a recovering player, said his desire to play started as early as 10 or 11 years old, when he signed up for pool tournaments in suburban Detroit for $5 or $10 apiece.
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He moved to St. Louis a decade later, and his game took on new meaning the day he walked into a downtown riverside casino. He plays slot machines, poker and “bets money that I don’t even have”.
“Sports betting is intoxicating – the Super Bowl is the most amazing time. You are
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