One of America’s most treasured pastimes is placing a bet in the hopes of winning money. Even when the US was just a handful of British colonies, betting on horse racing and card playing were two highly popular activities.
In fact, gambling predates Mesopotamia, the first human civilization, and it was a favorite in Ancient China, Ancient Greece, and Ancient Egypt. The moment we had coins we could use to buy food, we’ve used them to guess an uncertain outcome in the hopes of winning more.
For over 6,000 years, humans have been seeking out the thrill of risking their hard-earned valuables. And since then, people have been risking more than they could afford to lose.
Today, the dangers of gambling are just as prominent as ever. According to a fact sheet by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), 1% of all US adults have a severe gambling problem. That’s over 2.5 million people, or about the population of Chicago, America’s third-largest city.
Meanwhile, the accessibility of gambling is becoming more prominent as ever as well. Folks in over a dozen states can now legally gamble online, whether it be on sports, casino games, poker sites, or all three. And only six of 50 states don’t have any legal form of gambling.
What Is Responsible Gaming?
Responsible gaming is betting less than you can afford to lose as well as setting limits on your gambling that helps prevent the development of a gambling addiction.
It sounds simple enough, but the awe-inspiring Las Vegas strip was built on it being a lot easier said than done. When a bettor isn’t paying attention to how much they’re spending or how long they’ve been playing, money and time can easily slip away.
Every single casino game is built in the house’s favor. There is no exception to this rule. While many slots can lean in favor of the casino by up to 30%, blackjack’s house edge of just 1% still mathematically guarantees you’ll lose it all if you play for long enough.
Think if gambling like you’re buying a ticket to a show. You’re exchanging your money for the entertainment of the game, not to try and win more of it. If you walk away with some winnings, that’s just a nice bonus. But you should assume, much like the money used to purchase admission to a performance, that the money was spent and gone.
Responsible Gaming Strategies
In the section above, we described the mindset you need to have before gambling. But once one is in the throes of the betting action, it can be extremely difficult to put all that in mind. So here are some tried and true ways to ensure you’re practicing responsible gaming:
- Set a strict budget. For the online casino, deposit only as much as you’re ready to lose. At a land-based casino, bring a set amount of cash and don’t withdraw anymore. In fact, it’s probably good to leave your credit and debit cards at home.
- Set a strict time limit. When it’s time to go home or log-off the app, do so. And take an hour break every hour or two.
- Never chase losses. Just stick to the time and budget limits. When you’re done, walk away. The more you try to make up for lost bets, the more you’ll lose. That’s as close to a universal truth as it gets with gambling.
- Be happy with smaller wins. Going for the biggest payouts is a good way to go home with the biggest losses. Typically, the higher the win potential, the lower the likelihood of winning.
- Don’t use gambling as a coping mechanism. If you’re feeling anxious, depressed, angry, or bored, avoid gambling. Winning in that state leads to addiction while losing makes things worse.
- Record your long-term gambling. Keep track of how much you arrive with and how much you’re left with after every excursion. See what your net wins or losses are over the year. This is usually a humbling experience.
- Gamble rarely, not often. The more time and money you spend on gambling, the more things you enjoy take a back seat.
- A gambling problem is common. If you think you may have one, look into online resources. Whether cutting down or cutting it out altogether, there’s a lot of support out there.
How Gambling Outlets Can Help
It may seem counterintuitive, but both brick-and-mortar and online casinos have resources in place to help folks with gambling issues. Some of these include:
- Intervention protocols, where they step in and put limits on deposits and other spending habits that are considered signs of problem gambling.
- Easy links and resources where players can find more information related to problem gambling and responsible gaming.
- Cutting off players who seem intoxicated. On that note, never gamble drunk.
- Minimizing, limiting, or eliminating advertising, particularly to a vulnerable group. In some states, online casino and sportsbook ads are banned.
- Keeping minors or those under the legal gambling age away from the games and advertising efforts.
But possibly the most effective and meaningful action a casino can take is abiding by self-exclusion requests:
You can request an online casino or sportsbook to ban you from their site for a certain number of weeks, months, or permanently. Once this is done, you cannot make a deposit or wager on any of the games or sporting events.
This would be similar to a smoker’s lighter never working, or a drinker being unable to open the bottle. The temptation is still there, but there’s a barrier between you and the addicting activity.
In Michigan, the self-exclusion program can extend to all the options, not just one website or casino. When you’re put on the Disassociated Person List, you’ll be banned from Detroit-area casinos as well as all Michigan online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker sites.
Problem Gambling Resources For Folks In Michigan
Michigan didn’t roll out their massive selection of gambling options without ensuring there were plenty of resources for folks who struggled with gambling limitations. The United States as a whole also offers a range of responsible gaming resources.
For Michigan-specific help combating a gambling addiction, we recommend:
- Calling 1-800-270-7117 for the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline.
- Looking into Gambling Treatment Programs, which are funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Start here.
For national resources, we recommend:
- GamblersAnonymous.org, the premier online resource for gambling addiction help that’s also available by phone at 855-222-5542 (for folks in Michigan).
- National Council on Problem Gambling, another major resource that has a 24-7 support line at 1-800-522-4700.
For help getting back on track, we recommend:
- The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), which can help you rebuild your finances after being hurt by gambling addiction.
For further information and learning, we recommend:
- The American Gaming Association offers a bevy of information regarding responsible gaming, how it’s enforced at the casinos, and stats on consumer participation. (The most promising stat is that 90% of gamblers bet responsibly.)
- The International Center for Responsible Gaming also offers a robust resource that’s geared toward employers and gambling industry professionals.
Gambling is addictive. But even casual gamblers at low risk of developing a problem can get ahead of themselves with betting. And much as Michigan casinos say they try to curb problem gambling, it’s ultimately up to the individual to pay attention, set limits, and seek resources if a problem develops.
Remember, gamble as a fun treat, not to simply pass the time or to let off some steam. That’s how habits form, and habits can quickly turn into addictions.