In a meeting of the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission last week, concerns about the use of state-wide casino revenue were raised. Kansas law requires 2 percent of gambling proceeds be funneled into a problem gambling fund, but according to Dodge City resident Debbie Snapp, legislation has been proposed that a large portion of the funds be reallocated. In fact, some reallocation has already taken place.
The Kansas City Star reported in October that the state budgeted $740,000 of the more than $9 million generated by channeling 2 percent of gaming revenues into a state problem gambling fund. The majority of the cash - $6.4 million - went to Medicaid for addiction services, which didn't result in an increase in problem gambling services in Kansas despite the increase of gaming facilities, according to the report.
Snapp serves as the chair of the local Problem Gambling Taskforce and is also a member of the area Problem Gambling Alliance. She attributed the changes to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, specifically Secretary Shawn Sullivan.
"There is essentially a big chunk of money not going where it was voted to go," she said.
Snapp said more than 50 percent of Dodge City residents voted in favor of the presence of Boot Hill Casino & Resort, but their choice was influenced by the promise of revenue going directly to gambling, alcohol and other addictions.
Currently, the Problem Gambling Taskforce receives a $10,000 grant from the state each year, which is used to create awareness of problem gambling through presentations, radio ads and newspaper ads. None of the taskforce members receive any compensation for their time. Snapp added that the taskforce has the sole responsibility of creating awareness in the community; the state not does provide any assistance.
"We are concerned that if there is not an effort for awareness, prevention, and treatment, there will be a negative outcome for the community," Snapp said. "If our grant money goes away, then we have nothing.”
Snapp is worried that with the reallocation of resources, there will be less money available for the taskforce.
Snapp also said there is speculation the position of a state problem gambling manager may be eliminated, causing further problems. She asked the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission to bring her concerns to the next level, but said she was given the impression the commission feels they have limited legislative influence.
"The concern really has to come from people in the community," Snapp said. "We voted believing this would be in place and legislators and the governor need to keep their promise.”
Snapp hopes residents of Dodge City and Ford County will step forward and help speak against the reallocation of problem gambling funds. The Problem Gambling Taskforce meets at 1:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of every month in the Ford County Government Center. All of the meetings are open to the public and last about an hour.
Page 2 of 2 - Snapp can be reached at (620) 227-1588.
The state's problem gambling hotline is 800-522-4700.