Learn more about gambling and how to support your health and wellness
Chances are you have strong beliefs about gambling. Maybe it's how to beat the house, which games have the best odds, or even a system that "can't lose."
Almost nine in 10 Iowans gamble. Most see it as a form of recreation. For many, it is. But not for about 15 percent of adult Iowans — they develop a symptom of problem gambling.
Review common gambling myths and learn the facts by clicking on the Myths & Facts tab. See how much you can expect to take home for every dollar you wager by checking out the Payout Wizard. Learn more about how to avoid the risks of gambling by clicking on the Gambling Responsibly tab.
Remember, know the risks, and the more you play, the more you pay.
Myths & Facts
How much of what you know about gambling is actually true? Review some common gambling myths and learn the facts.
Casinos loosen the slot machines at the entrance to attract players.
Myth. All modern slot machines are state-of-the-art and controlled by sophisticated computer chips that are programmed according to state law, local custom and the basic bet size.
Video poker machines have different payouts for the very same hands.
Fact. Do your research and find a maximum payout machine. If you can't, you're just giving your money away.
If a slot returns 93 percent, that means I'll leave the machine with 93 percent of my money after playing.
Myth. On a 93 percent return machine, the average slot player actually leaves with about 57% of their money. This is called "churning." It happens because players don't pocket their winnings; they put them right back into the machine.
Before you play any game, you should invest in a book that tells you how to beat the odds.
Myth. Understanding the game and the odds can help you play smarter. But the probabilities that determine the payouts of the games always favor the gaming industry. So unless you're cheating, no one can beat a game of chance in the long run.
When playing the lottery, never use a number below 32.
Fact. You can't control the odds of winning the lottery. But you can decrease the chance you must share your prize. Lots of people use birthday dates as a number and no date falls higher than 31. Of course, this is all academic since your odds of winning are very low.
I always seem to win when I wear my lucky socks.
Myth. People want to believe in lucky charms. And sometimes they seem to work. Unfortunately, more often, they don't. It's an illusion. But not a bad one as long as it doesn't lead you to make bets you can't afford. Gamble with your head. Not over it.
In horseracing, when a trainer switches to a first-time rider before the race, beware.
Fact. Trainers do switch jockeys depending on the condition of the horse on race day. Of course, it may just be the rider isn't feeling well. The point is, no matter what kind of handicapping you do, the condition of the horse is a critical variable -- and it's completely unknown to you.
At roulette, if a number hasn't been hit in a while, it's due.
Myth. The idea that something is due because it hasn't shown up for a while is so wrong it even has its own name: "the gambler's fallacy." Each spin of the wheel is a random event, which means runs will happen -- randomly. You just never know when they'll begin or end.
I bet on college games because they're easier to judge than the pros.
Myth. College games are actually harder to judge. Rivalries are important. Emotion has a greater impact. Blowouts are common. Players are far less consistent. Betting on any sport is tricky -- these games are far more so.
I only play craps at a table where the dice are hot.
Myth. There are streaks that appear to be a pattern. A dealer seems cold. The dice seem hot. A slot hits a bunch of winners. You want to believe you've found some sort of system you can win with. But you haven't. In truth, there are no rhythms to gambling. They are random, unpredictable events which don't affect any future results.
Chances are you have strong beliefs about gambling. Maybe it's how to beat the house, which games have the best odds, or even a system that "can't lose." In most cases, you’ll take home far less than you think. See the payout by selecting a game and plugging in the bet amount. The Payout Wizard automatically calculates the house advantage, hold percentage and churn rate, letting you know how much of your original wager you can plan on taking home with you.
How to reduce your risk of developing a gambling problem
There are a number of ways to avoid the risks of developing a gambling problem. Here are some ideas on how you can take steps to reduce the risk:
- Don’t think of gambling as a way to make money. The bottom line is that gambling establishments, like land-based casinos and internet casinos, are set up to take in more money than they pay out. This means over time, you will lose more money than you win.
- Always gamble with money that you can afford to lose. Gamble with money that you set aside for fun, like going to the movies or going on a vacation. Never use money that you need for important things like rent, bills, groceries, etc.
- Set a money limit. Decide how much money you can afford to lose before you play. When you have lost that amount of money, quit. If you win, enjoy it, but remember it won’t happen most of the time.
- Set a time limit. Decide how much time you can afford to spend gambling. When you reach that time limit, stop gambling.
- Don't chase losses. If you lose money, don't try to get it back by going over your limit. This usually leads to even bigger losses.
- Don’t gamble when you are depressed or upset. It’s hard to make good decisions about gambling when you are feeling down.
- Enjoy other activities so gambling doesn’t become too big a part of your life.
Choices: Gambling Self Assessment
This free and confidential self-assessment is meant to assist those who are interested in exploring further their gambling and related behaviors. This self-assessment is a tool to help raise awareness about the impact of problem gambling behaviors and DOES NOT replace a face-to-face evaluation with a trained local problem gambling professional.
All information is kept strictly confidential. Your answers may be analyzed statistically for program evaluation and research.
After completing the final section, you will have an option to email the self-assesment to yourself. If you choose to do this, an email with a one-time use link will be sent to the email address you provide. When you follow this one-time link, you can save a PDF copy of the self-assessment to your device.
At this point, you may choose the option to send the self-assessment to a problem gambling professional in your county who will reach out to you about next steps.
*This Self-Assessment is taken form Choices: Defeating Problem Gambling, Version 4, February 2020 (David Hodgins, PhD, Karyn Makarchuk, MSc)
Encouragement. One Text at a time.
You can never have too much support. Especially when you’re facing a problem with alcohol or drug use, gambling, suicidal thoughts or mental health challenges. That’s why Your Life Iowa created our supportive text messaging program. So you can sign up to receive messages designed to provide you encouragement, no matter what you may be facing.
Brain injuries can be a multi-occurring condition with problem gambling.
Brain injuries are often a multi-occurring condition with problem gambling. Screening for brain injury is a best practice when responding to, and/or planning clinical and community-based responses for clients in health, community, and corrections services. Brain injury screening tools can provide a brief assessment of a person's exposure to brain injury, but do not provide a diagnosis or indicate an absence of a brain injury. Learn more with the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa.
Want to find help on your own?
Your Life Iowa is always here to help you find resources near you. However, we understand that sometimes you’d like to look for help on your own. Our map will let you do just that.
Would you like a gambling treatment professional to contact you?
Fill out a simple contact form and a professional will reach out to you.
Are you family or friends with someone who is having problems with their alcohol use?
Find out how Your Life Iowa can provide support for them – and you.