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Don’t go mad this March over gambling. Understand the risks of online sportsbooks.By MSGCU on 3/12/2024

Every March, millions of Americans gather around their TVs to watch college basketball’s NCAA tournament. We’ve found a variety of ways to indulge our obsession, from printable brackets to watch parties. With recent changes in legislation, a new way to partake in the “madness” of college basketball has come to dominate every commercial break: online sportsbooks. If you’re curious about online sportsbooks and their apps, this article explains them and their potential pitfalls.

First things first: online sportsbooks are not for everyone. If you struggle with gambling, you’re not alone. Michigan resources are available 24/7.

What’s a sportsbook?

A sportsbook is any place, physical or digital, that accepts bets on sports. Online sportsbooks, became legal in Michigan in 2021. These apps give you access to different betting options and allow gamblers to place one, or many, bets with just a click or tap from their computer or mobile device. Many even offer incentives or bonuses to entice their users to keep using their apps. They work hard to appear that online betting is a simple way to win easy money.

Before you go all in on a sportsbook app, understand the risks.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, America is experiencing the largest and fastest expansion of gambling its history. This is largely in part to the how easily accessible the mobile apps have become. Online sportsbooks, like all gambling, revolve around the odds, and the odds don’t always mirror real-life. You may feel like you have a sure thing betting on a player who consistently hits three-pointers to make one during the game, but that same player may get injured within the first few minutes and be out for the rest of the tournament, or simply has an off game. It’s important to remember that the house always wins.

If you plan to use online sportsbooks this March, follow these tips to keep betting safe:

  • Expect to lose: Remember, the house always wins in the long run. Hope to win, and expect to lose.
  • Set a budget and make a plan: Decide on an amount your comfortable losing and set a timer on your phone to limit your time spent on the app.
  • Never borrow money to gamble: If you don’t have it, don’t ask for it.
  • Make sure you know the game: Understand the bet you’re making, as well as the risks and the odds of it.
  • Have an accountability partner: Team up with a friend, partner or spouse to keep you accountable to your personal betting limits.

As popularity of online sportsbooks' grows, the issue remains whether the financial risk is worth the potential reward. Before you spend $5 to get $200 in “free bets”, it’s a good idea to remember that no bet is guaranteed and that you can lose money more easily that you can make it. While placing a bet or two may on a game may feel exciting since you’re invested both emotionally and financially, it also falls into a perfectly legal space where powerful people profit by exploiting human addictions.

For those experiencing problems with gambling, there’s hope and help. Trained, experienced counselors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-270-7117.

Find more information at’s gambling problem webpage.


Sources: National Council on Problem Gambling


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