A recent survey has found that half of Kansas adults gamble about once a month and that almost one in 12 admits to having bet more than they could afford to lose.
“It’s a real problem,” said Joyce Markham, an addiction counselor and president of the Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling. “This affects not only the gambler, it also affects family members, our friends, and our co-workers through bankruptcies, crime, domestic violence and health care costs.”
Markham said she knew of several families that had lost their farms, homes, and life savings due a father or mother’s addiction to gambling.
The survey, commissioned by the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, also found that while a large majority of state’s gamblers said they did not have a gambling problem, 13 percent of the respondents said they had “been affected” by someone - spouses, family members, friends and co-workers - who did.
Conducted in October and November, the poll involved telephone calls to 1,600 randomly selected adults. Each respondent was asked 96 questions.
Buying a lottery ticket was considered a form of gambling.
“There is so much information here, it’s a bit overwhelming,” said Doug Ballou, a managing partner with Whitworth Ballou, a Kansas City marketing firm that assembled the questionnaire and oversaw the interviews.
Ballou presented an overview of the findings during a Wednesday morning meeting of the Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling.
KDADS officials said they would use the survey to put together a policy on how best to spend the state’s problem gambling fund, which is expected to reach $8 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Kansas law stipulates that 2 percent of the net revenue generated by the three state-owned casinos – Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City, Hollywood Casino in Kansas City – be spent on programs and services for people with addictive behaviors: alcoholism, drug abuse and problem gambling.
Net revenue is defined as the slot-machine and table-game income minus payouts.
In an email sent to members of the Kansas Association of Addiction Professionals last month, a KDADS official said there likely would be less money for prevention and treatment services in the proposed budget for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, 2013. The amount of the reduction, if any, remains unclear.
Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to release his proposed budget on Jan. 16, the day after his state of the state address. The Legislature is then free to add or subtract from the the governor's spending plan.
In the current fiscal year, the 2 percent set-aside is expected to generate about $7 million, most of which is used to underwrite Medicaid-funded drug and alcohol abuse programs. KDADS treatment and prevention efforts receive about $750,000.
Several coalition members said expected the governor to propose eliminating state-funded support for prevention and treatment services.
The state’s toll-free hotline for problem gamblers (1-800-522-4700) fielded 691 calls last month.