Michigan Lawmaker Proposes K-12 Gambling Education

Gambling education may be taught in school along with the three Rs if a Michigan legislator’s bill becomes law. Gaming regulators and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) may be among his allies in that quest.

The legislation state Sen. Joseph N. Bellino Jr., R-Monroe, proposed today is nebulous about what grade in the K-12 spectrum will include the youngest children to learn about the dangers of gambling addiction. However, he designates in SB54 that the gambling addiction curriculum for the Michigan Department of Education to create needs to be “grade- and age-appropriate.”

The 2-page-long bill has already moved to the Senate Education Committee.

Speaking to Bonus today, Bellino said:

I think high school age is appropriate for educating our students on the risks of gambling because that is the age that we start to really focus on the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and in our state, opioid addiction. I think educating students on the risks of gambling during this time makes sense as it is a natural fit with the other topics.

It also makes sense to start educating our students on the risks associated with gambling before they are legally able to start using the easily accessible sports betting apps so they have some knowledge of what they may be getting into beforehand.

Currently, US gambling education aims to teach adults of legal gambling age about addiction, betting in moderation, and taking breaks. Much of that responsible gaming education comes courtesy of the gambling apps themselves.

Michiganders 21 and older have been able to place legal bets on Michigan online casino, poker, and sports betting sites since Jan. 22, 2021.

UPDATE: 02/13/2023

Chelsea Wuth, an MDHHS associate public information officer, told Bonus today:

MDHHS supports education about problem gambling for all ages. Michiganders with concerns about problem gambling can call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline, 1-800-270-7117, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for crisis intervention and referral to treatment. Information regarding the availability of youth gambling prevention training can be found on our website Michigan.gov/problemgambling.

The Michigan Department of Education has been assigned as the lead agency on Senate Bill 54.

Gambling Education Allies in Michigan

Bellino may have allies interested in seeing his gambling education measure pass. The bill calls for the curriculum to be available to school districts by July 1, 2024, for the 2024-2025 school year.

Mary Kay Bean, communications specialist with the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), told Bonus today:

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has been working on introducing gaming education curriculum to Michigan students. …

The Michigan Gaming Control Board fully supports efforts to add curriculum on responsible gaming and gaming addiction to the state’s K-12 curriculum. The agency issued a news release in September supporting responsible gaming awareness education for Michigan’s students.

That Sept. 1, 2022, MGCB press release noted the statistics relating to underage gambling:

According to National Council on Problem Gambling statistics, between 60% and 80% of high school students say they gambled for money in the past year. Additionally, NCPG says 4% to 6% of high school students are considered addicted to gambling. The research platform EarthWeb reports an estimated 6% of American college students battle against gambling problems.

A 2017 study also noted 13% of adolescents wagered money on sports teams.

Gambling Addiction Is a Serious Problem

Bellino’s press release announcing the bill restated many of those NCPG statistics but added that he likened problem gambling to other addictions.

He said:

Just as our teachers currently inform students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, we need them to also educate them about the serious consequences of gambling addiction.

Bellino told Bonus today:

On a personal note, I’m an addict in recovery. Not related to gambling, but you know the similarities between gambling addiction and drug/alcohol addictions, and that is why I believe it is so important that we at least warn and educate our students about the harms of gambling addiction before they leave their parents home and are out on their own making real world decisions that have real world consequences.

Although he spoke in an unrelated context, James J. Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG), said gambling addicts have the highest suicide rate.

Plus, most of New York’s problem gamblers are 18 to 24 years old, he told members of the New York State Legislature during a joint public hearing.

Lawmakers from two committees were gathered on Jan. 31 in Albany to discuss the first anniversary of New York sportsbooks.

Maney said:

We’re not doing enough at all. Not even close.

Another theme in Maney’s impassioned plea to lawmakers was similar to Bellino’s bill.

Maney said:

The No. 1 thing we have to do is educate.

Gambling Ads Are Everywhere

Michigan is one of the seven US online casino states and 23 online sports betting jurisdictions.

As a result, Bellino said children are seeing online gambling operators’ ads and have questions.

He told Bonus today:

Every single day and on almost every single television channel we are seemingly inundated with ads for mobile betting apps such as FanDuel and DraftKings, including on radio as well. I think it has gotten to a point where almost every other commercial has to do with gambling. Our kids and students see this stuff and they become curious about it especially when the commercials are always talking about the big win.

Plus, in the countdown to the 2023 Super Bowl, online sportsbooks are already on Adweek‘s list of Big Game advertisers. NBC sold 30-second spots for $7 million.

Along with beer and snack commercials, Super Bowl viewers will see ads including:

  • DraftKings Sportsbook: Kevin Hart will interact with David Ortiz, Emmitt Smith, Ludacris, Julius Erving, Lisa Leslie, The Undertaker, and Tony Hawk to promote the app
  • FanDuel Sportsbook: If Rob Gronkowski kicks a field goal during a commercial break, bettors will share $10 million

On Saturday, country fans will attend a Tim McGraw and Bailey Zimmerman concert in Phoenix for which they may have bought tickets on BetMGM, Variety reports.

Despite this seeming excess, Americans appear receptive.

The American Gaming Association (AGA) predicted today:

A record 50.4 million American adults (20%) are expected to bet $16 billion on Super Bowl LVII.

That’s 61% more bettors than it forecast last year, the AGA said. Among those 50.4 million US wagerers will be 38% who bet online, the association’s research shows.

However, the 2024 Super Bowl may be one for the books.

Katie Kohler, a BetMGM iGaming communications manager, noted on LinkedIn today:

It’s the first time the Super Bowl is being played in a state (Arizona) where sports betting is legal. … The 2024 Super Bowl is in Las Vegas.

Bellino hopes Michigan gambling education can join the lineup a few months later.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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