DES MOINES — This is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and the man who runs the state Gambling Treatment Program says it’s a good time to take a close look at the issue.
Eric Pruess says the number of problem gamblers remains small, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. “Many Iowans are impacted by problem gambling and they continue to gamble because they just don’t know. They don’t know why they have a problem, they don’t know what problem gambling is, or where to get help. Problem gambling should not go unnoticed,” he says.
Pruess says the most recent studies show how prevalent gambling is in Iowa. He says nearly nine in ten adult Iowans have gambled in their lifetime, seven in 10 gambled in the last 12 months, and about four in ten gambled in the last 30 days.
Pruess says everyone needs to know help is out there. “The good news is that prevention is effective, treatment works and recovery is possible,” according to Pruess. “As of January first 2019, IDPH now contracts with 19 local agencies to provide problem gambling treatment, prevention and recovery support services in 19 service regions that encompass all 99 counties in Iowa.”
He says the results of treatment are encouraging. He says 66 percent reported dissatisfaction with life when starting treatment, and that dropped to 24 percent at discharge. While 50 percent reported being late in paying bills at admission to treatment — which fell to 25 percent when they were released.
Pruess says the creation “Your Life Iowa” gives people struggling with addiction a place to go. “Help and information is available 24-seven 365 via phone, text and on-line chat,” Pruess says. He says it is also the home to 1-800-BETTSOFF.org for those who need help with problem gambling. He says they have had more than 65-thousand visits in the last year, with most of the page visits being for problem gambling.
Pruess says there are a variety of way they can help and he encourages anyone with concerns to visit the website.