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March 8, 2011

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

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Problem Gambling Addiction Can Change Lives

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month

Lincoln—Problem gamblers face life-changing consequences from their addiction, according to Scot Adams, Director of the Division of Behavioral Health, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

“For most people, gambling is a fun activity that doesn’t seriously impact their lives,” Adams said. “For other people, gambling can be a serious problem. It can destroy finances, families and friendships.”

Facts about consumers being treated for gambling problems during fiscal year 2009-10:

  • The average age of consumers was 43 years, with males averaging 42 years, and females 46 years.

  • Males were more likely to be consumers than females, at 59 and 41 percent, respectively.

  • Over 60 percent of consumers reported having more than 12 years of education. About 70 percent were employed full-time.

  • The average gambling debt ($28,158), not including other household debt, is over half of the average income of state residents.

Gambling treatment services were provided to 243 individuals in fiscal year 2009-2010, with the average cost of treatment being approximately $3,000 per consumer. Treatment services include crisis intervention, individual counseling, group therapy and family counseling.

The Problem Gambling Helpline operated by the Nebraska Council on Compulsive Gambling handled 2,314 calls in fiscal year 2009. It is available 24/7 at 1-800-522-4700. 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 if the amounts being bet are more than they can reasonably afford to lose; and
  • Taking time away from work or family life to gamble; not telling others when they are going to gamble.

“If a friend or family member has a problem with gambling, urge them to seek help,” Adams said. “The good news is that there is treatment available and that it works.”

The Division of Behavioral Health in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services administers the Gamblers Assistance Program. 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.

GAP’s goal is to reduce the impact of problem gambling in Nebraska through quality and effective education and treatment services.