Gambling addictions rise in down economy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Gambling addictions rise in down economy

Iowa casino regulators will meet Thursday.

On the table?

The possibility of more casinos in the state.

The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission will hear the results of a feasibility study to see if the state could support more gaming facilities.

But gaming addiction counselors are seeing more calls while most Iowa casinos are seeing fewer gamblers.

Jewel Cooper is a gambling addiction counselor at Allen Hospital.

Her office covers a 9 county area.

She says she's getting more calls through the Iowa gambling treatment hotline though statewide numbers are down.

"My theory is complusive gamblers will go after the fantasy that says if I gamble longer and more, I will win the big money," said Cooper.

Statistics show fewer gamblers are entering almost all of Iowa's 17 state licensed casinos.

A comparison from January 2009 to January 2008 shows Waterloo's casino with 14,000 fewer customers, Dubuque Greyhound Park with 7000 fewer customers, Marquette stayed the same, Riverside saw about 1000 more gamblers and Dubuque's Diamond Jo opened a new facility: one reason it saw more than twice the number of people than last year.

Cooper says problem gamblers are usually in dire straits by the time they seek help.

"This is an illness that takes place entirely in the brain. It takes a lot longer for compulsive gamblers to admit a problem," said Cooper.

Cooper says whether it's financial hardship, stress, or other factors, once gambling stops being fun, it's time to find help.

The gambling treatment program runs through the Iowa Department of Public Health and is funded with casino money.

The toll-free 24-hour hotline is 1-800-BETS-OFF or go to their website here.

To see details of Iowa casinos revenues and statistics, click here.

Online Reporter:  Bob Waters

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