Michigan's New Compulsive Gambling Initiative

by: Jim McBryde - Special Assistant for Drug Policy
Michigan Department of Community Health

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The responsibility for dealing with compulsive gambling problems in Michigan was recently transferred from the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery to the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH). To address this responsibility, MDCH now maintains a 24-hour toll-free helpline, 1-800-270-7117, for people to call if they or someone they know has a gambling problem. Neighborhood Service Organization, a Detroit-based crisis intervention organization under contract with MDCH, answers the helpline calls, coordinates the initial consultations with qualified counselors and oversees ongoing treatment of clients when necessary.

Current efforts to promote the toll-free helpline feature three new 60-second radio advertisements airing state-wide, including one ad by MDCH Director, Jim Haveman (please see text below). There are new brochures, wallet cards and church bulletin inserts which address compulsive gambling issues and include the Gamblers Anonymous Twenty Questions. There are two new MDCH web sites dedicated to compulsive gambling: www.mdch.state.mi.us/ads/Gambling/ which is our main site and www.teengambler.com which targets younger gamblers. There also are new billboards in vicinity of the Detroit casinos which state, "If you bet more than you can afford to lose, you've got a problem" and urge people to call the helpline.

Further efforts to promote the toll-free helpline involve working closely with the new Detroit casinos. Michigan's landmark casino regulatory legislation of 1997 included a provision requiring compulsive gambling signage designed by the casino and MDCH to be placed in specified locations throughout the casino. In addition, MDCH has required that the sign in the casino's main entrance be a continuous electronic sign with the same tag-line used on the billboards and the toll-free helpline. The pro-active MGM Grand Detroit Casino, which is the first Detroit casino to open, went above and beyond the requirements of the law and placed large plaque-style compulsive gambling signs in 53 key locations and placed continuous electronic signs at all four casino entrances.

MDCH also has contracted with Western Michigan University to update a compulsive gambling study they did for the Bureau of State Lottery in 1997. The new study will compare compulsive gambling trends in Michigan over the past two years but will place more emphasis on youth gambling and will look for the first time at the growing problem of internet gambling. When this new study is released, MDCH will further evaluate our ongoing compulsive gambling efforts to make sure they are as effective as possible.

TEXT OF RADIO SPOT BY DIRECTOR JIM HAVEMAN:

Did you know that over 350,000 Michigan residents are addicted to gambling? This is Jim Haveman, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. And unfortunately, as the number of casinos increases, so do the numbers of people who have a problem with gambling. Fortunately, there's help available. But first you need to recognize the problem. Have you missed work or school because of gambling? Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling? Has gambling affected your reputation? Your marriage? These are only a few of the signals you may have a problem. Think about it. Tell yourself the truth. Don't wait until you've lost everything to get help. Call 1-800-270-7117 for confidential help, that's 1-800-270-7117. And consider this the next time you feel lucky, gambling is no way to make money unless you're a casino.


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