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March 20, 2012

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Note: Sound bites from Maya Chilese, manager, Gamblers Assistance Program, on this topic are available at:

Problem Gambling: More to Lose than Money
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month
Lincoln—A gambler has more to lose than just money, according to the director of Behavioral Health in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
“Someone with a gambling addiction could lose his or her home, job and family,” said Scot L. Adams.  “These are just a few of the potentially life-changing consequences of problem gambling.” 
For most people, gambling can be an entertaining activity that doesn’t negatively impact their lives.  But for some, things can quickly spin out of control, causing significant financial debt and personal and family turmoil.
In Nebraska, individuals involved with problem gambling treatment in 2011 reported an average gambling debt of $22,011, not including other household debt.
“If you or someone you know has a problem with gambling, seek help,” Adams said. “Treatment is available, and it works.”
Gambling treatment services were provided to 217 individuals in fiscal year 2010-2011. Treatment services include crisis intervention, individual counseling, group therapy and family counseling.
The Division supports the Problem Gambling Helpline, which handled 2,167 calls in fiscal year 2010-2011. The Helpline number, available 24/7, is 1-800-GAMBLER or 1-800-426-2437. 
In addition to the helpline, resources on problem gambling can be found by going to
Possible signs of problem gambling:
  • Becoming defensive if someone expresses concern about their gambling habits;
  • Borrowing money, selling belongings, or stealing so that they can continue to gamble;
  • Feeling anxious or depressed when they are unable to gamble;
  • Increased frequency of gambling activity;
  • Lying about the amount of time being spent on gambling, how much they are betting, and how much they have lost;
  • Placing larger bets over time whether winning or losing;
  • Betting more than they can reasonably afford to lose; and
  • Taking time away from work or family life to gamble; not telling others about time spend gambling.

The Division of Behavioral Health in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services administers the Gamblers Assistance Program. GAP’s goal is to reduce the impact of problem gambling in Nebraska through quality and effective education and treatment services. GAP provides funding for the helpline, treatment services, prevention and outreach services, and counselor training. The program is paid for in part by funding from the state Lottery and the Health Care Cash Fund.  These services are not funded by taxes.