Today marks the beginning of the first National Problem Gambling Week. A northeast Iowa woman known simply as “Carol” says she started playing bingo games almost 25 years ago and went on to racetrack betting, casino slots and even Internet gambling on her own computer. She tells of a day last July when she lost $1,200 dollars Internet gambling and had to call her husband at work and ask him for money. Carol made two other calls — to a lawyer, and to the gambling treatment program at Waterloo’s Allen Hospital. Carol compares it to any other kind of addiction. She explains how you get through a “binge” of the behavior and tell yourself you’ll quit and won’t risk all the things you’re putting onthe line — but then the temptation comes along again and nothing would make you stop. She says you “shut down” and can’t see any consequences, because she says if you could, you’d have to stop. Gambling-treatment counselorJewll Cooper says we make it far easier to wager than to get treatment for a gambling addition. She points out you can gamble if you have a phone to call the casino shuttle, or if you can walk to the corner drugstore or gas station. And Cooper says far too often we’re the well-meaning ones who expose young people to what could be their own future gambling problem. Cooper says we buy lottery tickets for kids or grandchildren, and let teens bet on sports or cards, which is having them partake of a potentially addictive behavior. Cooper says there should be programs in all the schools to tell kids the consequences of making choices to gamble, just as we warn them about drinking, smoking and drugs. Cooper says there are few options to help those who run into trouble, and the state has CUT funding to publicize gambling-treatment programs. The toll-free number for problems gamblers in the state is 1-800-BETS-OFF.
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