Teen gaming focus of prevention effort

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From left, Mary Boots and Genevieve Balajadia, addiction counselors from Dubuque, want the public to know about the connection between teen gaming and problem gambling. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Shelia Tomkins 

Two counselors who specialize in addictions recently visited Clayton County to spread the word about the connection between teen gaming and problem gambling.

Mary Boots, I.A.D.C., B.A., and Genevieve Balajadia, M.A.,  work out of the Substance Abuse Services Center in Dubuque and serve a 10-county area that includes Clayton County.

The week of Aug. 6-10 has been designated Responsible Gaming Education Week. "This campaign is set up for people to think about the limits they set for themselves in regards to gaming," said Boots.

Research shows a link between gaming and gambling. "Youth who start spending money within games are more like to later gamble, and are at more risk of having gambling problems later in life,"  said Boots. 

While visiting the county, the two counselors handed out brochures that point out the common types of teen (and adult) gambling, such as paying for a chance to get items in a video game, sports betting or betting on cards or dice games. 

Signs of a problem can be easy to hide. Warning signs include lying about gaming/gambling, spending more time and money online, borrowing or stealing money, missing events, or saying that gambling is a way to make money.

Help available

Approximately 15% of Iowans develop a symptom of problem gambling. Free and confidential help for any type of gambling problem—whether it involves teens or adults — is available by calling the SASC Gambling Treatment Program on a 24-hour crisis line at (563) 583-1216. 

Individual or family counseling is available, and phone sessions are also offered. The identities of those seeking help are kept strictly confidential. "Anonymity is important to us," said Boots.

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