Help is available if you can’t resist betting during March Madness

DES MOINES — Friday marked the start of one of the most troublesome months of the year for people with a gambling addiction.

Katie Bee is problem gambling services project director at the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services. Bee says March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

“It really focuses on gambling-related problems and how those problems can affect Iowans of all ages and backgrounds,” Bee says. “As many know, it coincides with March Madness where Americans are expected to wager billions of dollars on basketball tournaments.”

Bee says problem gambling is a behavioral pattern that damages personal, family or work relationships, and it carries significant societal and economic costs.

She says, “Here in Iowa, what we have learned is, there have been over 1,500 contacts that were received at Your Life Iowa and 1-800-BETS OFF health lines in the past year specific to this issue.”

There are many types of problem gambling, which may be prompted by lottery and scratch-off games, sweepstakes, betting at tracks, casinos or online.

“Problem gambling is preventable and it’s treatable, and there are numerous individual professionals and organizations across Iowa that are dedicated to educating the public about gambling-related issues, and the availability and effectiveness of prevention and treatment services.”

Studies find about 14-percent of Iowans — or 315,000 adults — are at-risk for a gambling-related problem. Iowans with gambling concerns can call 1-800-BETS-OFF or visit yourlifeiowa.org.