Help Is Still Available For Iowans With Compulsive Gambling Issues Despite Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted By Derek Helling on April 8, 2020

A combination of an economic downturn and a government shelter-in-place order can comprise a perfect storm for those with compulsive gambling issues. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Iowa problem gambling resources are still available.

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the National Council on Problem Gambling both provide resources for Iowans. Some of them are available remotely, and most of them are free to access.

Iowa problem gambling resources available via online, phone

You don’t have to heighten your risk of contracting COVID-19 in order to access resources because many are available remotely.

The IDPH’s chat, talk and text lines are still available for such individuals amid the shutdown of other state services. The number to call is 855-581-8111, or you can text 855-895-8398. Although those aren’t treatment services in and of themselves, they can help Iowans ascertain whether they need treatment and the best way to access that.

There are resources for family members and friends of people with compulsive gambling issues as well. These include Gam-Anon, a self-help organization similar to Al-Anon, and GamTalk, a moderated online support forum.

Like the self-exclusion program, most of the other services can only be accessed by individuals with the issues themselves. Those include Gamblers Anonymous and one-on-one meetings with licensed counselors.

Gamblers Anonymous and Gam-Anon have shifted to weekly meetings via conference calls instead of in-person gatherings. Likewise, many one-on-one counseling services have moved to remote models.

There are some changes to those services in Iowa because of the pandemic. They shouldn’t impair anyone who needs help from getting assistance, however.

Iowa’s Self-Exclusion Program is available for registration online

One of the best ways for individuals with these issues to help themselves out is Iowa’s Self-Exclusion Program. When a person enrolls, that prohibits all licensed gaming operators from allowing that person to make any wagers. It includes brick-and-mortar casinos and online sportsbooks.

Iowans can place themselves on the list for five years or the rest of their lives. If they chose the lifetime restriction between November 2004 and July 24, 2017, they could apply for reinstatement as long as their exclusion period has lasted at least five years. Anyone who applied for lifetime exclusion before or after that period cannot apply for reinstatement.

Individuals can only place themselves on the list. No one can request placement on the list for anyone else. Additionally, the individual must apply voluntarily.

To enroll for the program remotely, download the form and fill it out. You must sign the form in the presence of a notary public registered with the state of Iowa.

Then mail the form along with a recent photograph of yourself showing your head and shoulders and a copy of the front of your state-issued ID card or passport to:

  • Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission
  • 1300 Des Moines St., Suite 100
  • Des Moines, IA  50309-5508

When the state processes your application, it will notify all licensed gaming operators of your addition to the program. From there, the operators will take care of ensuring that you can’t gamble even if you attempt to do so.

Even amid this pandemic, there are resources for Iowans who struggle with compulsive gambling issues. At a time when such individuals might be especially vulnerable, the state has made provisions to help navigate these circumstances.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Chicago. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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