Iowa treatment center expects surge in gambling problems when sports betting starts

Local News

DES MOINES — With sports betting weeks away, some are concerned the easy access to gambling through apps on your phone or tablet could make it dangerous for those addicted to gambling. There are protections built into the law to prevent gambling addiction, but some worry those protections aren’t enough.

In a matter of weeks, you’ll be able to place bets on sports from the convenience of your phone. An exciting idea for sports fan, but something that worries people like Rebecca Peterson.

“Anytime you have that immediate access, that instant gratification, that’s exactly what someone with a gambling disorder would be looking for.”

Peterson is the director of MercyOne House of Mercy, a facility that treats people battling addiction problems. “We see people lose their savings, their retirement funds. people end up in divorce or separating from their family because of the chaos that can be caused.”

There are measures in place to prevent addictions from starting, such as safeguards in mobile apps where you can set limits on how much you bet and how often you can view the app. “The rules require a cooling off period so it’s not a situation where somebody can establish those limits and then decide they want to immediately change those. They have to wait,” says Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission administrator Brian Ohorilko

But Peterson worries that’s not enough. “That measure would be helpful for somebody who’s already acknowledged that they have a gambling disorder. What that won’t help is the individual who hasn’t quite recognized that they have a disorder who will continue to seek greater and greater measures to gamble.”

So how do you know if you are addicted? Signs include: lying about how much you’re betting, stealing to bet more and trying to win back all that you’ve lost.

“If somebody does have a gambling disorder, I’d really encourage them to seek out counseling,” says Peterson.

Local 5 On Your Side has put together some gambling addiction resources here if you or someone you know may have a gambling addiction.

  • Your Life Iowa
  • National Helpline: 1-800-BETS-OFF
  • MercyOne House of Mercy: 515-643-6500

Sports betting starts August 15 at noon in Iowa. You must be 21 and older to wager. Mobile options are available at some casinos, others you can only place bets in person.

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