Annual Symposium Set To Tackle Problem Gambling This Week

The first 13 years of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) annual Gambling Disorder Symposium were undoubtedly important, but this year’s takes on some added gravitas.

After all, it’s barely been a full year since Michigan legalized online sports betting and casinos, and as a result, there have been nearly three times the number of calls to the state’s problem gaming helpline. In 2021, there were over 4,400 calls, according to the MDHSS, and referrals for people to receive gambling treatment also rose 42% year-over-year, from 295 referrals in 2020 to 420 in 2021.

“These platforms engage in a pay-to-play format, so by their nature they’re addicting and difficult to escape. This can lead to severe financial trouble, as well as strained personal and work relationships as people participate in these spaces more than ever before,” Alia Lucas, the MDHHS gambling disorder program manager, said in a press release announcing this year’s symposium. “Resources are available at the symposium to identify and learn about the steps you can take if you or a family member are struggling with a gambling disorder.”

Titled “Gambling: The New Direction,” the 14th annual symposium will be held virtually on March 3-4. 

Free to attend, but must register

The symposium is free of charge, but registration is required and the window to register closes at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 1. The symposium will discuss the impact of sports betting and online casino gambling, how it affects adolescents, and how to learn about self-exclusion and harm reduction strategies. 

The MDHHS notes that despite it being illegal for high school students to gamble, the rate of problem gambling among high school students is twice that of adults, and that kids who gamble before age 12 are four times as likely to develop a gambling problem as they age. 

If you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem, the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline is 1-800-270-7117 and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

More information about the symposium, including registration information, can be found at, and to learn more about problem gambling in Michigan, one can visit

Photo: Shutterstock

Author: Bradley King