At Tuesday’s Regulatory Reform Committee hearing, Michael Burke, the Executive Director of the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling (“MAPG”) and a Board Member on the National Council on Problem Gambling, testified.   He began by making it clear that the MAPG and the National Council are “neutral on legalized gambling”.

He explained that the MAPG is a not-for-profit organization and the state affiliate to the National Council on Problem Gambling. “The MAPG is comprised of a 100% all-volunteer network of problem gambling clinicians, trainers, researchers, stakeholders from Michigan’s gambling industry, and individuals in recovery. The Michigan Association does not receive state funding. The presence of a state advocate for problem gamblers is extremely important as most individuals with gambling problems do not seek help due to the intense shame and stigma surrounding this hidden addiction,”Mr. Burke noted.    He went on to state:

“It is important to note that the majority of people in Michigan will never experience gambling problems, but it is up to the state of Michigan to provide effective, results-oriented prevention and treatment programs to help the estimated 1-2% of individuals suffering the negative consequences of problem gambling. My primary goal is to advocate for services to prevent Michigan citizens from developing gambling problems and to ensure services are available to treat those who develop this devastating disorder.”

Mr. Burke outlined some detailed “measures” that state officials addressing the issue of problem gambling (i.e. the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)) should try to meet.  These measures include:

  • “designating a senior staffer to be solely responsible for problem gambling issues;
  • adding brief gambling screens to intake/assessment and data tracking systems;
  • adding gambling participation and problem symptom questions to existing surveillance, monitoring and survey efforts;
  • developing state and culturally specific basic materials on gambling addiction;
  • developing a plan to train all MDHHS behavioral health counselors in basic screening, assessment, treatment & referral; and
  • identifying counselors with prerequisite education and certification to receive advanced training with the goal to achieve national certification and become trainers.”

Toward the end of his presentation, Mr. Burke called for the state to explore offering better treatment alternatives for problem gamblers, suggesting that some other states have established residential treatment centers with great success.   He stated:

“MAPG and its members would like to explore with this committee, that among the proposed safeguards for this legislation, the need for specific funds to be allocated to offering free, residential treatment for those Michigan residents suffering from a compulsive gambling disorder.   States such as Louisiana and Massachusetts serve as great templates and offer residential treatment at no cost to any resident of their respective state.”

Mr. Burke has long advocated for the establishment of inpatient facilities.   “This form of residential treatment has proven to be dramatically effective.  The MDHHS would be wise to explore allocating funding in this direction.  The reports I have seen from the state of Louisiana, where such programs have been well-established, demonstrate the meaningful impact that establishing treatment facilities can make in turning lives around.  I have sent people from Michigan to the Louisiana CORE facility, and the treatment that they have received has been excellent and effective,” he noted in an interview with the Michigan Gaming Newsletter.    

Mr. Burke also stated that the MAPG welcomes participation in the group by members of the gaming industry.  “We have been blessed to get active participation from MGM Grand, from Four Winds Casino, Gun Lake Casino, and from the Michigan Lottery.  It is clear that the industry can play a key role in helping shape better public policy on responsible gambling efforts, and in assuring effective treatment of problem gamblers.”   Anyone interested in learning more can visit the MAPG website at this link.   A full video replay of Mr. Burke’s testimony to the House Regulatory Reform Committee is available at this link.


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