National Problem Gambling Week is coming to an end, and the man in charge of Iowa’s program to help problem gamblers says the state continues to have a small number of people who need its services. Mark Vander Linden told the Racing and Gaming Commission Thursday, that surveys continue to show good news for Iowa.
“Eighty-percent said that the main reason they gamble is for entertainment,and about half said excitement or challenge was an important or very important reason why gambled. Approximately two-thirds of adult Iowans said they were extremely or moderately confident that they would recognize that a friend of family member has a gambling problem. And 80% said if they did have a gambling problem themselves, it would be very easy, or easy to talk about it with somebody in their support system,”Vander Linden said.
The data from the last year show only seven-tenths of one percent of Iowans are considered problem gamblers. “Despite the wide range and steady increase in gambling opportunities in Iowa, the prevalence of problem or pathological gambling in Iowa remains low,” Vander Linden said. “Basically it’s in line with what other state and national studies have found in recent years.”
Not all the numbers are good. “Even though less than one-percent would be considered a problem or pathological gambler in the last 12 months, it still translates to roughly 16,500 of our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers,neighbors, Iowans, people around us that need help right now. They’re suffering enormous social, economic and psychological implications,” according to Vander Linden.
He said it is important to recognize that gambling’s impact goes beyond the gambler. “What we found is that approximately one in five, or 22% of adult Iowans said that they had been negatively impacted by the gambling behavior of a family member, a friend or someone else that they knew.”
The reasons given for gambling also raised a concern for Vander Linden. “Of those who gamble, a significant number are doing so with the goal of winning money to pay bills. Including 17% of the women, and 8% of men,” according to Vander Linden. “Eleven percent gamble as a distraction to everyday problems. And 35% said it was important to win money when they gamble.”
He says the state’s casinos and lottery do a good job of letting people know about the help that is available for problem gamblers. You can get help with problem gambling by calling 1-800-BETSOFF or 1800BETSOFF.org.