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March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, Council Bluffs man sends warning

Brian Grimes of Council Bluffs spoke with FOX 42 about his struggle with gambling while playing an online game.

One metro man is sending a warning that gambling can start in the most innocent of places.

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and this man wants others struggling to know his story and how he's turned his gambling addiction around.

Brian Grimes said, "It's a rush. It's instant gratification."

Grimes says he was 15 years old when he started playing RuneScape. It's an online game where you can spend money to make virtual money and buy items to get to a higher level.

Grimes said, "The whole appeal to it is to look cool and to look dedicated to the game."

The now 20-year-old says he became so dedicated that the game soon became an addiction.

"I'd spend eight hours, make that $500 million. I'd go lose it.”

He says the gambling process would start all over again and he’d use $10 to buy more things within the game. To play the game, Grimes wasn't just spending his own money.

"I've spent 10 bucks of my own money on there and the rest of it was my mom's."

Grimes says it was about $125 altogether.

"It's not just money. It's hours of my life. That's the harsh reality too."

However, for people like Grimes, there's help and hope. He just started a gambling addiction treatment program at Heartland Family Service.

Grimes says one of the things he does during his therapy sessions is to make a list: the pros and cons of gambling. He says seeing it written down has been a huge wake-up call.

If there's one message he wants to send during Problem Gambling Awareness Month, it's this: "If you're struggling get help because it can be very tragic."

Heartland Family Service is offering two free presentations this month of “The Power of the Screen” which discusses healthy mobile game activity: 7 p.m., March 22, Council Bluffs Public Library; noon, March 30, MICAH House.

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