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Help is available for problem gamblers

DES MOINES — March is “Problem Gambling Awareness” month and the head of Iowa’s treatment program says they are trying to let everyone know that things don’t have to get out of control.

Eric Pruess says that’s why they have started their “Be Number One at Getting Help” campaign. “To help those who might not understand much about gambling have a bit more empathy understanding and support for those individuals — to encourage them to reach out for support rather than anger and I can’t believe you did this, how could you do this? Why do you have this problem and no one else has this problem,” Pruess says.

He says the gambler and those around them need to know what’s involved.
“It’s a disease, it’s something that people need help for and there’s help available. That’s really what we are trying to get at,” Pruess says. “And certainly within the theme of Problem Gambling Awareness Month is awareness plus action makes good things happen.”

Sports betting has taken off in Iowa since becoming legal — and Preuss says there’s no doubt it increases the temptation for those who might gamble illegally.

“All you have to do is watch TV and know there is a very high level of competition that is going on with the new sportsbooks when the sports law changed,” Preuss says.

He says there are a lot of offers out there trying to get people into sports gambling. “They’re competing for a limited number of Iowans and trying to build that relationship with Iowans to do sports wagering. And they are doing it in some very enticing ways — bet a dollar win a hundred. We guarantee you won’t lose your first 25 dollars,” Preuss says. ” For a person who hasn’t gambled before, it sounds like ‘why wouldn’t I try that?”

He says gambling doesn’t have to take over your life. “We really just want to get the message out to them to play responsibly — to stay within their means. Make sure you are only wagering your discretionary income and not looking at it to make money,” according to Pruess. ” I mean, it’s fun, it’s entertainment. If you win great, if you don’t, you walk away and you had fun doing it, that type of thing.”

He says if you feel you have a problem there is help at 1-800-BETTS-OFF or by going online to yourlifeiowa.org.

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