DES MOINES, Iowa – This is the first year Iowans have legally been able to place bets on March Madness. March also doubles as Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
Since becoming legalized, sports betting has become more accessible and socialized. That’s why the Iowa Department of Public Health is keeping tabs on gambling trends in the state.
In 2018, IDPH conducted a survey. According to Problem Gambling Services Manager Eric Preuss, it found individuals who participated in sports wagering were twice as likely to be at risk for problem gambling.
Preuss said that could be because they tend to engage in multiple betting behaviors such as going to the casino or buying lottery tickets.
Because of less interaction during the pandemic, Preuss also pointed out people aren’t picking up on the warning signs of problem gambling with friends and family.
During this awareness month, a new campaign called “Be Number One at Getting Help” is encouraging people to reach out for assistance.
“Being number one and getting help, to recognize the courage that it takes to reach out for help,” Preuss said. “And then for the caregivers around them to have empathy for that individual. Sure they’ve got a problem and that may elicit some emotional responses about gosh, you hate that they’re doing it. But they’re still a person and they’re still a person that’s having a problem, and where can we use our own compassion, love, and kindness for each other to say, let’s get this person the help that they might need.”
Preuss’s advice to ensure safe betting includes setting a budget and sticking to it, as well as taking breaks and setting limits. He says gambling should be fun and if it’s not anymore, that’s maybe an indication to step back and evaluate.
“If it’s gotten to a point where it’s really impacting you and where you’re lying about your gambling, you’re hiding your gambling, or you’re asking for bailouts and help to make mortgage payments or credit card payments or something like that,” Preuss said. “It’s probably time to pick up a phone and talk with us a little bit about what might be going on with your gambling.”
People who need help can call 1-800-BETS OFF or visit the website yourlifeiowa.org.