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March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and to increase awareness of best practices, and prevention and treatment services, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is hosting the 12th Annual Problem Gambling Symposium on Thursday, March 5, at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich.

This symposium is open to professionals and recovering members of the problem gambling community, as well as anyone interested in learning more about this growing concern to Michigan residents.

The symposium provides professional training, recovery stories and information on community resources. Attendees have the opportunity to experience a Gamblers’ Anonymous meeting, learn about the prevalence of youth gambling, and discover the various types of treatment and prevention programs available statewide.

Emmy Award-winning reporter Spencer Christian will serve as the event’s keynote speaker. Christian was part of the Good Morning America team for 13 years and has served as the weather forecaster on San Francisco’s ABC7 News since 1999. He will share his nearly 30-year struggle with problem gambling, the lessons he learned along the way and how he rebounded, rebuilt and recovered.

“Gambling can sometimes negatively impact a person’s life, or the lives of their friends and family,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “This symposium is an opportunity to share treatment and recovery best practices and learn from others who have experienced problem gambling.”

To safeguard yourself or a loved one from problem gambling, MDHHS recommends:

  • Make gambling a social activity – don't gamble alone.
  • Don't wager more than you can afford to lose. Establish spending limits and stick to them.
  • Don't view gambling as a way to make money. Gambling should not be used to supplement income and holiday spending.
  • If you find that you’re gambling to escape stress, consider an alternative form of entertainment such as a movie, dinner or sporting event.

If your gambling is getting out of control, call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline at 800-270-7117. The Helpline offers 24-hour support and calls are answered by trained, professional staff who work with a statewide network of qualified treatment providers and have access to community resources to which callers can be referred. All calls are confidential. Those who suspect their loved ones may have a problem with gambling are also encouraged to call the Helpline for support.

Online registration is available for the symposium. The cost to attend is $35.