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Win big, lose big: the unforeseen problems with online betting & gambling in Michigan

Posted at 2:13 PM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 18:24:10-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Gambling in Michigan continues to explode as Michiganders continue to break online betting records. But there's a potential new problem coming up in the new year that many gamblers may not be aware of: taxes.

Earlier this week, we got this email from a viewer who wanted to sound an alarm about Michigan Income Taxes on winnings.

He wrote this:

Our reporter Jim Kiertzner checked with CPA who says, he could be right. Gamblers can only itemize losses on federal income tax returns.

The email to us continued:

"This is could potentially ruin people’s lives, and what’s worse is most people will have no idea that this is even a problem until it’s time to pay taxes."

"For me, it's a very small problem. I don't bet that much. But if I did, that would be a huge problem," News and Features Editor at Hour Magazine Steve Friess said.

Friess is an online gambler. He’s also written an article warning about the growing gambling industry in Michigan.

He's not alone.

Mike Mooney is a former gambler, now counselor, and board member of the Michigan Association of Problem Gamblers. He says the online growth is fueled by COVID concerns.

Just before COVID, the sportsbooks opened in two Detroit casinos for in-person bets. By January, online betting went live and gambling began to grow and set records.

"The internet gambling platform has less overhead and is attracting as much, or more, than the casinos are," Mooney said. "It's just common sense that future gambling will be more with the internet technology."

Friess believes the state could do a better job protecting players.

"I think that there are definitely things that a gaming control board can do, should do, and maybe haven't thought of yet," he said.

We reached out to the Michigan Gaming Control Board and the Michigan Department of Treasury for comment and were told no one was available.

There is help in Michigan for people who get too deep into gambling.

The Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline is 1-800-270-7117 and the Michigan Gaming Control Board has a system for people to disassociate themselves from going into Detroit Casinos. That number is 1-888-223-3044.