Allowing online gambling activity has had a negative effect on addicts, Burke said. The problem is made worse by the constant drumbeat of betting information from sports radio, advertisements by online companies and elsewhere, he said.
“You’ll notice … there has been an increase in sports betting advertising on TV,” Burke said. “That’s because that first phase of compulsive gambling is called winning. Companies give you money and a chance for a big win. For people predisposed to the problem, that draws them in.”
Gamblers can get sports betting information everywhere. “You can’t watch a sporting event without being inundated with what the spread is, who’s favored and stuff like that,” Crepeau said.
Crepeau likened online sports betting to drug dealing because to hook people companies offer “free money” in the form of cash deposits when people register. Then they tout “risk-free betting.”
“They give you upfront money, just to get started. They guarantee winning, and then when you start losing you are down that road and are chasing losses,” said Crepeau, who was into offshore sports betting before it became legal in Michigan.
But Crepeau said companies make it very difficult to withdraw money once you place money in an online betting account.
“You try to cash out, and they make you wait like three to five days to get your money. As a compulsive gambler, you’re not going to wait that long. So what would happen is, you bet it,” Crepeau said. “It’s super simple and super easy. For the compulsive person, that’s going to be a huge issue.”
Burke said the adrenaline rush a gambler gets from placing bets and winning is similar to doing drugs.
“If the gambler wins, he will put it back in. If he loses, he will chase it and he’ll try and find sources that have more money so that he can continue,” Burke said. “In all of these years of working with families, I never met one who said ‘I had this wonderful night at the casino and stopped.’ It’s never enough.”
Anticipating problem gambling, Michigan gambling laws allow people to ban themselves from Detroit casinos as well as through what is called the Disassociated Persons List by filing an application with the Michigan Gaming Control Board. It does not apply to tribal casinos, but some voluntarily offer similar programs.
The state’s online gambling law requires internet gaming operators or platforms to allow people to self-exclude “for all internet games offered and the ability for authorized participants to establish their own periodic deposit and internet wagering limits and maximum playing times.”
More than 4,000 people have signed up for the casino self-ban list, but only a handful so far have signed up to exclude themselves from establishing an internet casino gaming account.