DES MOINES, Iowa — The holidays bring people and family members together more than any other time of the year. For many people, this is a happy time and for others, it can be overshadowed by concern for a loved one’s, or even their own, gambling problem.
The Iowa Gambling Treatment Program said gambling addiction can be hard to talk about and even harder to spot. Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, which has a very visible side effect, gambling addiction is more hidden. The program has some suggestions on symptoms to look out for.
“A family member may be being more secretive about what might be going on with their finances. Are they maybe staying out later or spending more time at a casino or you’re not knowing where they’re at? Do you get a sense that they’re lying to you with their gambling especially if you’ve confronted them or had concerns about them?” Iowa Gambling Treatment Program Manager Eric Preuss said.
There also may be more of a focus on sports wagering. Sports betting became legal in Iowa in August, but the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program said it’s too early to tell whether it has made a significant impact on gambling addiction. Though they did have five people call seeking counseling for sports gambling issues since that August start time.
If someone is participating in sports gambling, the program suggests they keep it within their financial means, they are not immediately trying to win back lost money, and most importantly they are having fun with it. They said if someone is not having fun with sports betting then that should be a red flag for the individual or family member to look into getting treatment.
“Our treatment data shows that treatment works, that people do get better, people do recover and that’s what we really want to let people know is that there is hope no matter how dire or how significant or how hurt and how much shame or guilt that their family member or someone that’s struggling with gambling might be having that help is available and it just starts with a phone call or a tap on a chat or a text,” Preuss said.
You can reach out for help by calling 1-800-bets off or texting 855-895-8398 or starting a chat at yourlifeiowa.org.