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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Despite risk, access to gambling help fund is limited

  • Adults who gamble in Ford County are 10 times more likely than the rest of the state to gamble for reasons other than for entertainment, according to an analysis of a state survey commissioned by the Southwest Kansas Problem Gaming Task Force.
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  • Adults who gamble in Ford County are 10 times more likely than the rest of the state to gamble for reasons other than for entertainment, according to an analysis of a state survey commissioned by the Southwest Kansas Problem Gaming Task Force.
    The analysis was compiled by Western Kansas Statistical Lab in Garden City using data from a Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services phone survey that contacted 400 residents in each of the three "gaming zones" and 400 residents outside those areas.
    The analysis also found Ford County residents that gamble are:
    • Twice as likely to gamble to win money to pay bills, at a rate of 30 percent compared to 14 percent state-wide.
    • More than twice as likely to want to cut back on the amount they gamble, at 14 percent compared to 6 percent state-wide.
    • Three times as likely to think they sometimes have a gambling problem, at 18 percent compared to 6 percent state-wide.
    • Less likely to think treatment for problem gambling works, at 37 percent compared to 48 percent state-wide.
    When analyzed based on ethnicity, the survey found that 53 percent of Ford County Hispanics that gamble do so to win money to pay bills, and 27 percent of Ford County Caucasian gamblers do so for reasons other than for entertainment.
    The gambling task force commissioned the survey analysis to inform its programming in southwest Kansas, which, due to the size and demographics of the area compared to the rest of the state, might require unique courses of action.
    The purpose of the task force, said Chair Debbie Snapp, is not to take a position on the net social and economic effects of gambling, but to balance the potential harm with the potential good of state-sanctioned gambling. To do that, data is essential, she said, but funding from the state has been limited despite a special fund being created for that purpose.
    The group receives grants from the Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund, which is drawn from the 27 percent state tax on casino revenue. The fund receives 2 percent of casino revenue, equaling more than $14 million since the first state casino opened in Dodge City in Dec. 2009.
    Of that, Boot Hill Casino, the smallest but oldest of the three state casinos, has generated $3.1 million for the addiction fund, about $860,000 last year.
    The southwest task force will receive $16,000 this year. Most of that will be spent working with employers to increase awareness to their employees on the signs of a gambling problem and treatment options. The group requested $12,000 to commission additional studies, was offered $3,000, and reached a compromise for $6,000, Snapp said.
    Working with employers is important because gambling addiction can cause workers to miss work, lose financial stability or make rash decisions that will impact the place of business.   
    Page 2 of 2 - If the fund was truly open, Kansas could have "state of the art" gambling addiction clinics, "the best in the country." However, most of the fund has been diverted to other causes, such as to fill state budget gaps and to treat other types of addictions. In 2011, only 25 percent of the fund was spent to assuage and treat gambling addiction, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported at the time. That year, $900,000 was diverted to the state general budget and $1.3 million was spent on Medicaid.
    This year, the state set aside about $1.2 million of the expected $7.4 million, or 16 percent, for gambling addiction-related causes. The largest slice, $5.8 million, will go toward treatment of other types of addiction. The rest has been earmarked for domestic abuse and children's programing, Gina Meier-Hummel, the director of the state aging and disability agency told Wichita NBC affiliate KSN.
    Snapp believes voters approved the casinos with the understanding the fund would be used to temper the negative effects of casino gambling. "That 2 percent was part of a promise," she said.
    Though there is a hotline with no out-of-pocket expense for those seeking support, but it's also important that southwest Kansans know about the services and are educated on warning signs of a gambling problem.
    A report by ValueOptions, the state's provider of gambling addiction mental health treatment, reported its most typical problem gaming patient is white, female, 21 to 30 years old, employed, not eligible for Medicaid and with at least a high school diploma. Slot machines are the most common catalyst for abuse, and the median amount of gambling debt is $12,000.
    Though Ford County has the greatest per-capita number of calls to the state's gambling abuse helpline, it ranked seventh in terms of per-capita treatment by the healthcare provider.
    One of the major hurdles, Snapp said, is that addicts "keep it secret because there's so much shame," she said. And that shame becomes guilt for spouses and family members that did not see the warning signs when the "house of cards" collapses, she said.
    Dodge City and the surrounding counties are likely to see negative effects emerge as time passes, she said, which makes making the fund available even more important. Five years tends to be the line when community's start seeing those downsides, she said.
    If you think you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the state helpline at 800-522-4700 or seek more information at www.ksgamblinghelp.com
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