State officials are reminding retailers and the public about “safe and responsible” gambling practices as part of the recognition of “National Problem Gambling Awareness Week.” Mark Vander Linden is the coordinator of the Department of Public Health’s gambling treatment program.

Vander Linden says roughly 88% of adult Iowans gamble, and most of them have fun and gamble responsibly. But he says the week tries to remind people that gambling does not come without its risks. “There are many Iowans…thousands of Iowans actually, who have gambled, and gambling has reeked havoc on their lives,” he says. Vander Linden says those who get into trouble often do so innocently.

Vander Linden says nobody starts out as a problem gambler, as it is a progressive disorder where people start out responsibly, but the expands and they start taking more and more risks with their money without regard for the consequences.

Vander Linden says part of the focus is on youth problem gambling, as a survey found three percent of sixth, eighth and 11th grade boys have won or lost $100s in some form of gambling in a single day. He says youth are roughly at twice the risk of becoming problem gamblers than adults, as youth tend to take larger risks and don’t see the consequences.

Vander Linden says you can gamble and not have it become a problem if you follow some guidelines. Vander Linden says don’t think of gambling as a way to make money, or a way to make your next house payment. Think of gambling as the cost of entertainment and assume that’s the money you’re going to lose. He says you should set a time limit whenever you gamble, and don’t chase losses looking to win the money back.

And Vander Linden says don’t gamble as a way to make yourself happy or keep from being depressed. State help is available on-line at: www.1800BetsOff.org, or by calling 1-800-BETS-OFF.