Concerned about Gambling? Have the Conversation

Governor Branstad will sign a proclamation Friday, March 4, marking March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month. While gambling is harmless entertainment for most Iowans, gambling can lead to personal and financial problems for others. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, 294,000 adult Iowans experienced a problem related to their gambling in the past year.

During Problem Gambling Awareness Month, Iowans are encouraged to have the conversation about gambling with those they care about. “We know the majority of Iowans who gamble do so because it’s fun and they don’t have any problems as a result of it,” said Eric Preuss of the of the IDPH Office of Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention. “But for those with a gambling problem, many suffer in silence because they don’t know why they developed a problem, what gambling addiction is or where to get help.”

Symptoms of problem gambling include the following:

  • Thinking a lot about gambling, such as past gambling experiences, future gambling ventures or ways of getting money for gambling
  • Needing to gamble with larger amounts of money or with larger bets to get the same feeling of excitement
  • Repeatedly trying to cut down or stop gambling without success
  • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
  • Gambling to run away from problems or to get relief from feeling depressed, anxious, or bad about oneself
  • After losing money gambling, often returning another day in order to win back the losses
  • Lying to family members, friends, or others in order to hide the gambling from them
  • Losing or almost losing a significant relationship, job, or an educational or career opportunity because of gambling
  • Relying on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling

“You can call 1-800 Bets Off (1-800-238-7633) to start that conversation and get connected to a Gambling Treatment Center near you,” said Margaret VanGinkel, hotlines coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. ISU Extension and Outreach has a contract with IDPH to answer the Bets Off Hotline and connect both gamblers and others who have concerns about gambling to appropriate resources. Bets Off is available all hours, all days.

The Office of Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention works to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling by funding a range of services for Iowans. These services include outpatient counseling for problem gamblers, concerned individuals and family; recovery support services; financial counseling, including budgeting and debt reduction plans; and statewide information and referral services through 1-800-BETS OFF and In addition, the program funds targeted prevention and education services for schools, community groups, casino employees and other at-risk groups.

"If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call 1-800-BETS OFF or go to," VanGinkel said.

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