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Prevalence of problem gambling in Iowa remains low

National Problem Gambling Awareness Week is March 4th through 10th. It’s an opportunity to raise awareness of the potential negative consequences of gambling and to honor the successes achieved in reducing the harm associated with problem gambling. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), while the percentage of Iowans identified as ‘problem gamblers’ is low, the consequences of their behavior can be devastating.

According to an IDPH report released last fall, the prevalence of problem gambling in Iowa remains low. Less than one percent (0.7 percent) of Iowans were classified as ‘pathological’ or ‘problem’ gamblers in the previous 12 months. “The percentage looks very small,” said Mark Vander Linden of the IDPH Gambling Prevention and Treatment Program. “But that percentage still translates into 16,500 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers or loved ones who need help now. They may be experiencing enormous social, economic, and psychological consequences. They are enduring lost relationships, stifling debt and even bankruptcy, substance abuse, guilt, and shame.” The adverse consequences of gambling are not limited to the problem gambler. According to the report, 22 percent of Iowans said they had been negatively affected by the gambling behavior of a family member, friend, or someone else they know.

For the majority of Iowans, gambling is a harmless pastime. But 13 percent of Iowans have experienced at least one symptom of problem gambling, including betting more than they could afford, or going back another day to try to win back money lost.

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