Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a proclamation recognizing March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month in the state. Several agencies are using the month to highlight the availability of assistance in place to help problem gamblers.
During March, the Iowa Department of Public Health, along with the National Council on Problem Gambling, are working to let people know there is hope and help for those who are experiencing a problem with gambling. Public service announcements throughout the month spotlight responsible gambling and this year’s theme of “Awareness + Action.”
Hundreds of thousands of Iowans are at-risk gamblers
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), around 1.7 million Iowans have gambled in the past year. Of those, about 315,000 are classified as at-risk gamblers. An at-risk gambler is a person who is experiencing problems because of their gambling. Problems may include excessive debt, feelings of guilt or arguments with loved ones.
Anyone who suffers negative impacts from their gambling is considered to be an at-risk gambler.
Approximately 2 million adults in the US (1% of the population) are estimated to qualify as having a severe problem with gambling. Another 4 to 6 million (2-3%) meet the criteria for mild or moderate problem gambling.
In addition, a University of Northern Iowa Center for Social and Behavioral Research document, Sports Betting and Fantasy Sports, reported that about 9% of adult Iowans either bet on sports or played fantasy sports. For this combined group, 23% were classified as at-risk gamblers, higher than the overall gambling at-risk percentage of 13.6%.
Know the symptoms of problem gambling
There are several warning signs that you or a loved one has a gambling problem. Some of the symptoms of problem gambling include:
- Preoccupied with gambling, or being restless or irritable when not gambling
- Keeping secrets about gambling habits
- Increasing betting amounts to achieve more excitement
- Unsuccessful attempts to cut back or stop gambling
- Using gambling to escape problems
- Gambling more to make up for losses
- Putting relationships, jobs, education at risk because of gambling
- Needing financial assistance from others to relieve a desperate financial situation caused by gambling
Resources in Iowa to help with problem gambling
The IDPH maintains The Office of Problem Gambling. The role of this office is to raise awareness about the availability of gambling prevention and treatment services offered statewide. The agency encourages people who may be struggling with a gambling problem to connect with a qualified professional.
The Webster County Board of Supervisors in central Iowa has also recognized the month with a proclamation.
“Problem gambling is a public health issue affecting millions of Americans of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds.”
Reminders and information are also being provided by the Iowa Lottery throughout the month. The goal is to get the right message to the right person at the right time. The Lottery has produced several public service announcements in partnership with the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services (IDHHS).
The IDHHS hosts a website aimed at helping problem gamblers. The 1-800-Bets Off website features tools and resources available in Iowa, including a helpline, screenings, self-assessment and also support services for friends and families of problem gamblers.
Anyone in the state of Iowa seeking support and assistance can call 800-238-7633. All services are free.