Problem gambling a public health issue

According to the National Council on problem gambling, nearly 80 percent of Americans report that they have gambled in the past year. The vast majority do so for entertainment and do not suffer significant consequences. But at least 6 million in the U.S. will experience serious problems with gambling, the impact of which will be felt by their families, colleagues and others in society.

Problem gambling does not just effect adults. According to the Iowa Youth Survey, 5 percent of Boone County sixth-graders, 17 percent of eighth-graders and 17 percent of 11th-graders report that they have gambled within the last year. Of those that gambled, they prefer skill games such as pool, bowling, dice or dominoes. Sports betting, that include Fantasy Sports or the brackets are also popular forms among Boone youth.

Problem gambling is a public health issue affecting all aspects of physical, social and mental health. It can affect families, work performance and general well-being. It is important to know the signs of a gambling program, that treatment is available and that it works.

There are many different behaviors that may indicate an issue and they include:

  • Suddenly becoming obsessed with gambling, a new sport or team.
  • Once you start to gamble it is heard to stop doing so, unless there is an outside force like running out of money.
  • Continuing to gamble despite losing and thinking that you’ll win it back the next time.
  • May become withdrawn when not able to gamble.
  • Look at gambling as a way to make yourself feel better when you are sad or depressed.
  • May begin stealing money in order to have money in which to play with.
  • When asked if you have been gambling you lie or deny that you have done so.
  • Asking for a financial bailout because you have spent money on gambling when it was supposed to cover the costs of housing, medication or other necessity.

The first place to look for help is to call 1-800-BETS-OFF. This is a 24 hour a day staffed hotline for gamblers and their loved once to seek out assistance. They provide information as well as have many referral sources available. If you would like more information please email katiet@cfrhelps.org.

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