There’s been an explosion in online gambling and sports betting in Michigan since becoming legal in January.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. WKAR’s Scott Pohl talks with the Executive Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, Richard Kalm, about what’s at stake.
GAMBLING DISORDER HOTLINE: 800-270-7117
SCOTT POHL: I thought I'd begin by asking you how you would define problem gambling.
RICHARD KALM: Problem gaming, gambling would be when somebody can't stop, that they spend more money than their means. Just like there would be with any kind of addictive behavior, they get enjoyment out of it, and they're unable to quit and do it responsibly.
POHL: It seems almost every TV commercial in Michigan right now is for online gambling sites and sports betting. There also are awareness ads about problem gambling, Are you troubled by not just the availability of online gaming in Michigan, but the volume of advertising we're seeing?
KALM: Yeah, there has been a high volume of advertising, and hopefully that's being tempered by the advertising for the gaming hotline if people have a problem. This is very new, it's only been in operation for 40 days, so all of the operators are vying for the same customer base. We kind of expected the advertising at this particular point in time. It's legal for them to advertise. It's not illegal and we don't get in the way of that. We're just hopeful that people also understand that when they sign up, that there's several other things they can do to limit their gambling.
POHL: The Michigan gaming control board is promoting awareness of self-exclusion options at online gaming sites. What are they, and how might they help?
KALM: We require that all the applications and platform providers have self-exclusion tools, and those tools will include limiting the time you are online, limiting the amount of money you wager per day, they'll even pop in with reminders you’ve been online X amount of time and you spent X amount of dollars. They do that to remind people that they can limit the amount they wager, and that they should.
POHL: Internet gaming and sports betting operators reported more than $89-million in gross receipts in February, with a total handle exceeding $300-million. What do those numbers say to you?
KALM: Well, the handle tells me that a lot of people are wagering on sports online. But, just so you understand, that's the amount of cash that changed hands. After prizes are paid back, most of that money is paid back in prizes. There is a certain amount held back, and that's the portion that we tax at 8.4-percent, but the volume tells us that there's a lot of people engaging in online sports betting.
The $79-million in online gaming revenue tells us the same story. Much more revenue available in online gaming, but that there is a large percentage of people. We're pleased that we have that amount of revenue being generated for the state and for tribal governments, and it compares very favorably with New Jersey and Pennsylvania: similar populations, similar demographics, so Michigan's right up there as a very vibrant gaming state.