Iowa had record high gambling revenues last year, and officials say that news is mirrored by an increase in calls to the state’s gamblers assistance hotline. Mark Vander Linden is the Coordinator of the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program.
Vander Linden says fiscal 2007 revenue, reported by the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, hit an all-time high of 1.32 billion dollars. At the same time, calls to the 1-800-BETS-OFF hotline increased by 15 percent from 2006. In addition to pari-mutuel betting and the state lottery, Iowa now has 20 casino facilities. Four of those casinos have opened within the past two years.
Vander Linden says the expansion of gaming is hitting rural areas that were not as close to gambling operations, "and with that, I think we’re seeing an increase in the number of problems that people are experiencing." In fiscal year 2007, over 7,300 phone calls were placed to Iowa’s gamblers assistance hotline.
Vander Linden says one-third of those calls were from people asking specifically about gambling treatment programs available in their area. Calls to 1-800-BETS-OFF also increased throughout the year, with calls in the second half of the fiscal year up 29 percent over the first half.