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Problem Gambling Awareness Month (March, 2024)

Problem Gambling Awareness Month (March, 2024)

Problem Gambling Awareness Month (March 2024)

Key Facts

  • According to the American Gaming Association, Michigan generated $1.92 billion in online gambling in 2023, and is ranked #1 in the nation.
  • It is estimated that approximately 85% of U.S. adults have gambled at least once in their lives, with 60% having gambled within the past year, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and we at District Health Department #10 (DHD#10) want to shed light on this “silent addiction” and connect the community to treatment and recovery resources.

Problem gambling, also called “gambling disorder” or “gambling addiction” occurs when people can’t control their gambling. While casual gamblers can set a limit to the amount of money they gamble with, problem gamblers cannot stop, even when they can’t afford to continue. Some may resort to selling their possessions or stealing from others to pay their debts. They may lie about their gambling, gamble more when they are stressed, become restless if they try to quit, and/or become unable to stop thinking about gambling. The bottom line: Problem gambling can cause bankruptcy and legal issues, and destroys relationships and lives.

Problem gambling is categorized as a behavioral addiction. Gambling stimulates the reward system in the brain and can, like other addictions, eventually alter brain chemistry. It is not casinos or other places where gambling occurs that directly cause a gambling disorder; these locations only provide the opportunity for problem gambling to begin.

While anyone can have a gambling disorder, risk factors include:

  • A genetic predisposition
  • Personality traits: Being competitive, impulsive, or restless
  • Sex: Men have higher rates of problem gambling than women
  • Age: Teens and young people between the ages of 25 to 34 years old have higher rates of problem gambling than other ages
  • Exposure: Being exposed to gambling at a young age, and having family or friends that gamble
  • Mental health issues: People who problem gamble may also have a substance use disorder, a personality disorder, anxiety, or depression
  • Certain medications: Dopamine agonists can increase compulsive behaviors, such as problem gambling, although this is rare

It is recommended that individuals who have any one of these risk factors avoid gambling. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress, such as meditation and exercise, is also helpful. Problem gamblers often experience higher rates of depression and increased rates of suicidal behavior.  Getting treatment as soon as possible is the best way to keep an existing gambling problem from getting worse. Problem gambling is diagnosed by a mental health professional, and treatment involves different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing. Additionally, there are groups like Gamblers Anonymous that can offer support during recovery.

If someone you know is experiencing a gambling disorder, act sooner rather than later. Tell them your concerns and help them get connected to resources. Express empathy, be patient, and listen to them without judgement.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the Michigan Problem Gambling Hotline at 1-800-270-7117 or the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-470 for confidential help. Both Hotlines are available 24/7, at no cost.

If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. Help is available 24/7 at no cost.

For more information and resources on problem gambling, please visit

Quick Links:

American Gaming Association: Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker

Mayo Clinic: Compulsive Gambling

Cleveland Clinic: Gambling Disorder

The National Council on Problem Gambling: FAQs: What is Problem Gambling?