Preliminary data from the Iowa Gambling Treatment program shows more people are seeking treatment for gambling problems. Mark Vander Linden manages the program that includes the toll free hotline that people can call if they think they have a problem.
Vander Linden says they’ve actually seen a decrease in the number of calls to the service, but there’s been a roughly 10% increase in the number of admissionsat gambling treatment facilities across the state. He says there were 905 people who sought treatment in 2009 and 948 so far in 2010 — a 5% increase.
Vander Linden says there are some variables he sees as standing out, “One being that the toll of the recession on the state, that people have less expendable income, but are continuing to gamble. Another also may be that we are really trying to pay attention from the state as well as our treatment providers around the state to make sure that people are getting the services they need and that they are coming back to address the problem gambling behavior.”
Vander Linden says people need to remember that gambling isn’t going to be a quick fix to money problems. Vander Linden says that’s something that they worry about, that people who are down on their luck or unemployed might look to gambling as a way to solve their problem. But he says while there are examples of people winning big, most people lose money gambling.
Vander Linden says it’s too early to draw big conclusions from the increase in people seeking treatment, but something they will follow.
“I think it’s definitely a trend that we want to continue to pay attention to,” Vander Linden says, “it does not change our message form one where if you need help, if gambling has become a problem that you seek help. We still will continue to maintain a capacity to serve as many Iowans that need help.”
Vander Linden says 88% of Iowans gamble, and a majority do it without a problem. He says if you believe you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, you can seek help by calling :1-800-BETS OFF (1-800-238-7633) 24-hours a day.
Or you can go on-line to the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program website at: www.1800betsoff.org.