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March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

By Bry Willger
On March 2, 2016

As most individuals are getting ready for the warm weather, spring sports and summer, it's also time to raise awareness for individuals with gambling troubles.

Problem Gambling Month is to help raise awareness and offer a wide variety of help to people who struggle with gambling.

Some of the more common behaviors to look out for in a problem gambler are as follows. More than likely the person will start and very often borrow money, gamble to escape personal struggles, lie about gambling issues, try to regain lost money and get defensive when others bring up the issue.

College students, young adults, senior citizens, athletes and even veterans are at the top of the list for being at risk to have a gambling problem. It is also said that many gambling addicts are more likely to be involved in other dangerous activities, such as alcohol and drug abuse. It is very important to get treated for your gambling issue then it is to avoid it and have it turn into other harmful life choices.

 “Use common sense and set limits of money and time that you can afford to spend,” said SASC Treatment Center Educator Ingrid Conway. Giving yourself a set amount that you will spend will give you limits and know when it's time to head out over staying and spending over your comparability, she added.

Conway advised to prepare yourself and understand that gambling is not a positive get rich quick scheme. This is where most young adults feel that going to the casino with all their savings will get them hundreds of thousands of dollars in a few minutes.

She added, never gamble to get away from depression or any other personal upsets that you may be dealing with. It is never a safe way to get away from your struggles or problems, according to Conway.

“Part of my job is to provide outreach and education and information about gambling as an addiction,” said Conway.

Help is available at the Linn County SASC (Substance Abuse Services Center) or call 1-888-771-6771, which is available 24/7.


College age individuals are at 2 to 3 times higher risk, than others, to develop problem gambling.  It may be surprising to know Male competitive athletes are at the highest risk at this age.  You may wonder if that affects you, but did you know that about 67% of all college students in the U.S. bet on sports?  Researchers estimate that 75% of college students have gambled in the last year.    We believe many may suffer in silence because they are not aware their recreational betting has become an addiction or know where to find help.  A main concern is about half of clients, in treatment for problem gambling, admit to thinking about hurting themselves.  It is easy to quickly reach a point of financial and emotional crisis once gambling becomes a problem or is used as a way of coping.  The National Council on Problem Gambling has more information about resources and statistics.   Here in Linn County, Substance Abuse Services Center (SASC) has a 24 hour Gambling Helpline at 1-888-771-6771.  There is help and there is hope.

How would you know if someone has a problem with gambling?  We’re not suggesting anyone be the “gambling police,” just keep an eye on our friends and family if they seem to have gone too far.

Signs betting has become more than just fun:

  • Do they seem unusually hung up on a certain detail of the game?  Maybe even change who they’re rooting for, based on the score or a certain player’s stats? 
  • Do they seem to talk about odds a lot?
  • Are they offering to sell or trade something for a bet, because of being out of money?

General tips about loved ones, for all types of gambling:

  • Are they spending more and more time or money on gambling?
  • Can they stick with limits on their betting/gambling?
  • Do they “chase” losses with more gambling, trying to win back money?
  • Do they seem to hide their gambling, or lie about how much and when they have gambled?

Helpful tips for recreational gamblers:

  • Always set a limit on time and money spent— and stick with it
  • Avoid betting if you’re intoxicated — Or if you’re mad, sad, hungry or tired. (Hungry / Angry / Lonely  Tired — HALT — This is a good idea no matter what the decision)
  • Don’t try to “chase” bets you’ve lost with more bets
  • Parents, set a good example for your kids with alcohol and bets. Ads are a good opportunity to talk about not “needing” bets to have fun
  • The good news is help is available, for the gambler and/or their loved ones.  In Linn County call the SASC (Substance Abuse Services Center) 24-hour Gambling Helpline at 1-888-771-6771

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