New campaign to raise awareness about gambling addiction

By: Kayla Bremer

The “Play It Safe” campaign starts Thursday with hopes to spread the word of responsible gambling for people who choose to play.

In Nebraska, as many as 55,000 people engage in problem gambling behaviors.  Just recently, State Senator Brenda Council admitted to using campaign donations to gamble.

The Department of Health and Human Services is launching the campaign.  It's to help Nebraskans understand their limits and offer resources for people struggling with addiction.

Jennifer Nelson is a recovering gambling addict of 11 years.  She says she knew she had a problem from the first time she stepped into a casino.

“The more money I won, the longer I could stay there, the longer I could tune out from my own life and just hide,” Nelson said.

Nelson says she would spend up to 12 hours at a time spending hundreds of dollars on slots and roulette.  She finally got help after she was caught stealing nearly $200,000 to cover the checks she writing to the casinos.

This new campaign is to help people like Nelson and highlight warning signs of people who may be struggling to stay in control.

“You tend to see increased time spent, more and more anxiety or depression and obvious things related to finances,” Program Manager Maya Chilese said.  “Maybe borrowing more money, taking out little loans here and there, check cashing can be kind of common…”

Nelson has been clean from her addiction now for seven years.  She says getting treatment turned her around. 

“You can't ever change what you did in your past, but you can learn from it and make your future a lot better and make better choices everyday.”

It's important to remember that gambling addictions don't just come from casinos… scratch cards, horse races, keno and the lottery can all lead to risky gambling behaviors.

If you have a problem with gambling, or need information about someone you think may have a problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER or go to