In February, the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline received more than 500 calls, more than five times the amount in February of last year.
“Gambling that’s becoming an issue, we’re talking about people that consistently violate their own budget and that starts difficulty in their life,” said Steven Brooks, a Genesee County gambling counselor.
Brooks said that problem is often seen in pathological gamblers.
“In the past, we used to think there was one issue that sent people off to gamble, but now we know there are several things that go into it,” Brooks said.
Brooks said although the pandemic likely played a major role in the increase, other factors like sports betting - which launched in January - and access to online gambling could also be responsible for the spike.
“We’re going to see tremendous amounts of problems with people getting on their phones and laptops spending more time gambling and losing their money,” Brooks said.
The increase is a sign of hope for gamblers wanting help, but also a sign they’re in too deep.
“If they’re calling the hotline, how many people reach out to a hotline before they’re already in crisis? These people are probably already in crisis,” Brooks said.
Brooks said it's important to look for the signs before its too late.
“If they stop paying their bills, if people start asking for money from their relatives, we oughta be asking some questions about where their money is going especially if we know they have a problem with gambling,” Brooks said.
If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, there is help. The Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-270-7117.