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Public Health Officials Hope Legalized Sports Betting Helps Them Reach Problem Gamblers

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ALTOONA, Iowa -- Iowans have been betting on sports for years, that's no secret. What may be a secret is the gambling problems many of them hide while placing bets from their phone or on their living room computer.  Both Prairie Meadows and the Iowa Department of Public Health Hope that if those gamblers come to bet at the new sports book in Altoona, they will come across responsible gambling messaging and helplines like 1-800-BETS OFF.

"The national data will say about one out of every 10 individuals might have a substance abuse disorder, whether it be alcohol or opioids, that about one out of 10 will reach out for help. On the gambling side its about one out of 100 "  said Eric Preuss, Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention Program Manager for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

According to the department's statistics, of 118,000 sports bettors in Iowa, 23% were at-risk gamblers with one or more symptoms found in gambling addicts.

Casino officials say that if those people come into a controlled environment, their trained staff can do a better job at intervening.

"We have cameras everywhere, and if someone's been sitting in a chair for 8 hours and not leaving it, there's a problem. We need to take a look at them and talk to them a little bit. We want people to come out here to have fun and enjoy this entertainment," said Prairie Meadows President and CEO Gary Palmer.

Palmer also says the casino does not extend lines of credit, and has limits on the amount someone can bet through their app. Meanwhile, the betting app will be full of responsible gambling messaging along with helplines to call if people feel they have an issue.


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