Today wraps up what has been National Problem Gambling Awareness Week. Mark Vander Linden, the manager of the Iowa Gambling Treatment and Prevention Program, explains the importance of the week.
“The first of the campaign, educate Iowans about what are the warning signs of problem gambling. The second goal is to raise awareness about the help that is out there and is available,” Vander Linden says. “I think these two goals together really are the cornerstones of a public health strategy, a strategy whose aim is to equip the community to understand the risk and responsibilities of gambling, to prevent problem gambling in the first place.”
Vander Linden says the programs for problem gamblers in Iowa have proven to be very effective. He cites a study from the University of Iowa as evidence. “Donald Black of the University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry just a few months ago released a study concluding that between 1995 and a follow up study in 2012 — if you take a look at what is the prevalence of problem and pathological gambling in the state — it’s actually decreased. And that’s a decrease despite a significant increase in the number of casinos and the number of gambling venues in the state,” Vander Linden says.
He says his organization worked with the University of Northern Iowa to do another study on attitudes toward gambling. “What we found is that approximately two-thirds of adult Iowans said that they would be extremely or moderately confident that they would recognize the signs that a friend or family member has problem gambling,” according to Vander Linden.
“What this says to me — people understand that problem gambling is out there its and issue and they know it exists, and this is different from a lot of other states. Ninety-percent of Iowans are aware that there’s the 1-800-BETSOFF helpline. That’s unheard of if you take a look nationally at a healthline of that nature.”
Vander Linden says they have studied the impact of gambling treatment over the last six years. “Among the people who completed treatment, the percentage who reported loses 500 dollars or more in the last 30 days decreased at admission from 47-percent to four-percent at discharge. There was a slight bump to seven percent at six months. But overall people who have entered our treatment facilities are gambling much, much less that they’ve received that help,” Vander Linden says.
“Six months after treatment 90-percent said that their gambling was much, much less compared to when they entered treatment.” Vander Linden concluded by saying the gambling industry has some obvious benefits to the state, but it also has some dangers that people need to remain aware of to prevent problem gambling.
He made his remarks during the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission’s monthly meeting in Johnston.