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Gambling changes would modernize Michigan gaming; mental health experts concerned about changes

(WSAZ)
Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 7:01 PM EST
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(12/12/19) - The stakes could be even higher for fans during March Madness as sports gambling is set to become legal in Michigan.

Once the governor signs a package of bills passed by the legislature Wednesday it is game on.

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State Senator Jim Ananich says this is a modernization of an outdated gaming system in the state.

"I think we have to live in the reality that people are already doing this," Ananich said. "So what we do is basically by making these changes you have protections. So if you enter into a game, whether it's online or in a casino now, you may not win, but your'e not getting cheated at least."

The changes would allow for online gaming, like poker, slots, other casino-style games and sports betting at Michigan's tribal and commercial casinos and online. That means popular websites like Draft Kings and Fanduel as well.

The legislation would also create a fund setup where licensing fees are paid into to fund the Michigan Gaming Control Board that will regulate the industry. Taxes must also be paid to the fund.

The legislature has written it so that the cities where the casinos are set up, the horse racing industry and public safety, including firefighters will benefit.

"Many times because of their job they can't get covered under the health insurance. We want to make sure we have a fund in place to protect them and give them the care they need because they went into fires to protect us," Ananich said.

The Internet Gaming Fund is expected to generate millions to help several Michigan government groups and $1 million a year to combat problem gambling. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also provides a help line.

"The person who is gambling has ways. They have ways to hide how they're spending money," said Laura Macias, LMSW.

Macias is a clinical social worker with a private practice in Flint. She helps clients through many different mental health problems, including gambling addiction.

"Because the access is going to be much more available, and especially with this type of addiction, when we're talking about gambling, it's something that is not so obvious to other people," Macias said.

Macias wants to stress there is no shame in getting help. She says overall there needs to be more work done on de-stigmatizing all issues with mental health.

Fore more help with problem gambling

. You can also call Macias at 810-289-4810.

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