Responsible Gambling In Iowa: Self-Exclusion And Treatment

With 18 casinos, lottery games and horse race betting in Iowa, placing a bet is nothing new to bettors in the Hawkeye State. 

Along with Iowa’s regulation of online sports betting, it brings added measures to assist those with gambling problems

However, there is already a framework in place. Protecting the small percentage of people who have issues controlling their gambling means that the majority can enjoy it safely.

Responsible gambling starts with identifying the problem.

Nobody likes to lose; however, feeling bad after a loss does not necessarily highlight compulsive or dangerous behavior. When it starts to affect family, friends and finances, intervention is key.

With new online sportsbooks bringing the ability to gamble anywhere within Iowa’s state lines, new tools are necessary. As you will see below, experience in other states means a suite of tools is already available to help prevent any issues.

Responsible gambling at live casinos in Iowa

Fifteen of the 18 casinos in Iowa offer an established self-exclusion program.

So, if you feel you have a gambling problem, you can exclude yourself from almost all of the casinos at once. However, the three tribal casinos are not part of this initiative.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC) runs this program. It is voluntary, meaning an individual must self-enroll. You can do so at any state-licensed gambling facility (the casinos), the IRGC office in Des Moines or any Iowa Gambling Treatment Program.

When someone enrolls, the participating casinos will stop allowing these individuals onto the casino floor. They are also required to cancel all marketing messages, remove access to apps or websites and cancel any players’ club or loyalty-type cards.

This covers pari-mutuel gambling (bets on horse races) as well as casino table games and slots.

Responsible gambling at online sports betting sites

Many states require legal sports betting sites to have a “responsible gambling” badge at the top of each page. Current Iowa online sportsbooks do have this badge, albeit a smaller version at the footer of the sites.

Take the William Hill IA sportsbook as an example; you’ll find detailed information on responsible gambling.

The page covers everything from treating patrons fairly through to the more destructive pathological side of problem gambling.

Also, there are some rules for enjoyable and safe gambling.

While there is no self-exclusion for all the sportsbooks, individual books will give you access to a suite of tools to manage your betting or let you self-exclude from that particular sportsbook.

Here are the elements of the responsible gambling policy at Iowa online sportsbooks:

  • Self-Assessment Questionnaire: If you are concerned that you have a gambling problem, though you are not sure, then a questionnaire will highlight any issues. You will find an example below.
  • Links to Treatment/Assistance Organizations: Website and phone links to agencies that can discuss any issues. These include both local and national charities. Note that you don’t need to be the one with the problem to call a helpline. If you have concerns about someone else, you can call up and get advice.
  • Limit Your Betting Tools: These vary depending on the sportsbook. You will be able to control the amount you can bet (for fixed durations like days, weeks, months) and the amount you can deposit. Timed playing is also possible, though that works better for poker games and casinos than for sportsbooks.
  • Time Out: These tools let you take a short break between one day and one month. This timeout can be useful if you find yourself chasing losses or need a temporary break from the site. Timeouts will expire automatically.
  • Self-Exclusion: This is for more extended periods away. Generally lasting between one and five years, this is a semipermanent self-ban that you will not be able to revoke. Self-exclusion does not expire automatically, though. Once the period is over, you will need to get in touch with the site and request to reinstate your account. You will be required to withdraw any funds left in your account prior to self-excluding.

IA responsible gambling: Self-assessment

If you are concerned that your gambling is becoming problematic, then your first stop should be a self-assessment questionnaire

Below, we share some examples of the common questions. Most gamblers experience the occasional remorse; for example, that big parlay fails by one leg in the last few minutes of the game. What is different from pathological or problematic gambling is the frequency and number of adverse outcomes.

While you might recognize some of these symptoms or behaviors in someone you love, these questions are meant to be a self-assessment. Your best bet, if you are concerned about someone else, is to get in touch with a treatment program, or call 1-800-GAMBLER, and seek the advice of someone trained to assist.

Sample self-assessment questions include:

  • Do your gambling sessions frequently last longer than you planned?
  • Do you frequently gamble until you are completely out of money?
  • Have you ever borrowed money to pay for gambling?
  • Do you ever lose track of time when you are gambling?
  • Have you ever gambled to escape from problems or worries?
  • Do you frequently have the urge to win back money you have lost?
  • Do arguments, stresses or frustrations cause you to want to gamble?
  • Have you ever sold possessions to pay for gambling?
  • Have others ever commented that you spend too much time gambling?

You can find more questions for a full self-assessment at the Center for Problem Gambling.

Responsible gambling and the Iowa Lottery

You can self-exclude from the Iowa state lottery

A link to the page, which is in the footer of the Iowa Lottery’s home page, outlines this process.

It directs you to fill out a form, which you can turn in at any of the regional lottery offices in Iowa. A list of these is available.

The lottery self-exclusion program is entirely separate from the one for casinos and racetracks. You will not be excluded from lottery games, even if you stopped yourself playing at the casinos. 

Note that if you self-excluded from the Iowa Lottery before July 2017, you could request to fill in a form again. At that point, only lifetime bans were possible, with shorter durations now available.

The helpline 1-800-BETS-OFF is associated with the Iowa Department of Health, which the IA Lottery heavily promotes. The latter states that it devotes funds to promote the service actively.

Responsible gambling resources in Iowa

There are two primary ways to reach responsible gambling services in Iowa:

  • Iowa Department of Health: You can call 1-800-BETS-OFF or find them online at www.yourlifeiowa.org/gambling. There is a lot of information on this site, including a detailed self-assessment and a list of accredited treatment providers in IA on an interactive map. You will also find a section of this site dedicated to providing information for family and friends.
  • Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission: The IRGC provides detailed information on its self-exclusion program. There are plenty of resources linked from this page, including information from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which focuses on treatment providers and professionals.

Responsible gambling and the protection of minors

You need to be at least 21 years or older to gamble online in Iowa; however, those 18 and older can play lottery games. Protecting minors from online gambling is part of the licensing conditions for the new online sports betting sites.

The primary age verification method is using the last four digits of your Social Security number as part of the registration process. You aren’t required to send backup documentation/proof of age unless your account gets flagged during a security audit.

Wrapping up: Responsible gambling in Iowa

With the rollout of nearly 38 online sportsbooks, responsible gambling is about to become a hot topic in Iowa. 

Most people understand that protection against those unfortunate enough to develop gambling problems is a crucial element of making betting, live casinos and lottery games available to all.

Fortunately, Iowa already offers an excellent infrastructure for assisting problem gamblers. It includes a state-wide, self-exclusion program for casinos and racetracks, plus a treatment center at the Iowa Department of Public Health, which not only links with treatment professionals, it provides assistance for friends and family, too.

Furthermore, you’ll find some tools to help manage your gambling at online sports betting sites. These include the ability to set limits, timeouts or even self-exclude from each site.