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When Gambling is More Than a Game

By Staff | Mar 27, 2018

The Super Bowl is the most bet on game during the year but it is the National NCAA Basketball Tournament or “March Madness” that is the most bet on event of the year. It is for this reason March has been chosen as national Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

As with any addiction, people with a gambling addiction can lose all the things that they value. Family, friends, jobs, self-respect, etc. are just a few of the values that can be lost. Problem gambling is a public health issue that affects a person’s physical, social and mental health. Eric Preuss, manager of the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program, says around one percent or more than 20,000 people in Iowa are problem gamblers but a small percentage of them are taking advantage of the help that is available. “We have fewer than 800 people who actually seek assistance in Iowa in any given year – so there’s a huge gap in those who actually need services and those who seek services,” Preuss says.

There are four general types of individuals who gamble:

Casual/social

Serious/Social

Relief and Escape

Compulsive/Disordered

The casual/social gambler plays for recreation or relaxation. Loses are considered part of the cost of entertainment. For the serious/social gambler they play regularly with great intensity. Gambling is their main source of entertainment and a source of identity. The gambler who wants to find relief or to escape from feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, boredom or loneliness; gambling provides a way for them to “get away from it all”. For the Compulsive gambler, gambling is the only thing in their life that is important to them. For the compulsive gambler, gambling affects every part of their life and all those values that make up their quality of life: family, job, values and mental and physical health.

Some of the signs and symptoms of a gambling problem include:

Preoccupation with gambling

After losing money gambling, returning another day to ‘get even’

Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement

Lying to conceal the extent of gambling

Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back or stop gambling

Restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop gambling

Jeopardizing or losing significant relationships because of gambling

Gambling as a way to escape

Relying on others to provide money to relieve financial problems caused by gambling.

With gambling, like any addiction, recovery is possible. For anyone who would like to talk to someone about their gambling, Iowa has a toll free number: 1-800-Bets-Off (1-800-238-7633) or online at www.1800BETSOFF.org. There are also several outpatient treatments centers available in Iowa that offer counseling services. For more information please contact Compass Pointe at their Spencer Office, 712-262-4381 or you can email at: preventioninfo@compass-pointe.org.

(Information provided by IDPH Bureau of Substance Abuse/Iowa Gambling Treatment Program December 2017 and Compass Pointe Behavioral Health Services)