Kansas City, Mo The Kansas City Port Authority will pay Harvard researchers $297,000 to study the Missouri program that allows compulsive gamblers to ban themselves from the state's casinos.
The two-year grant was announced Wednesday during the annual meeting of the Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling.
The Missouri Gaming Commission devised the self-banning program in 1996. It has since been copied by other states.
But Missouri officials said they had never studied whether the ban worked for most participants, nor collected demographic data for those on the list, which has grown by an additional 900 names since Jan. 1.
Since 1996, more than 5,700 people have placed themselves on Missouri's Disassociated Persons list, which bans them for life from the state's riverboat casinos. Violators caught in a casino risk prosecution for trespassing and forfeiture of any gambling winnings.
"The numbers are going up," Mike Ryan, outgoing alliance chairman, said in reference to that program and calls to (888) BETSOFF (238-7633), the alliance-sponsored state hot line for gamblers. The programs direct gamblers to help, including free counseling and treatment for Missouri residents and their families.
Ryan said 370 new treatment cases were funded by the state last year.
Ryan, also director of the casino industry's Missouri Riverboat Gaming Assn., said recent increases in the number of those seeking help reflected increased alliance promotion of the hot line number and more public awareness of where to find help.
Calls to the hot line in 2002 totaled nearly 3,000, and Ryan said more than 1,700 calls had been logged during the first six months of this year alone.
The alliance is made up of government agencies, private organizations and the state's casino, lottery and bingo industries.
By 2006, the Port Authority, an alliance member and Kansas City's oversight agency for the Isle of Capri and Ameristar casinos, will have received about $1 million in special payments from the two riverboats for its ongoing grant program.
The Port Authority also awarded $21,900 to Tri-County Mental Health Services of Kansas City for problem-gambling awareness training for schoolteachers and students, and $19,200 to the Wellness Center at the University of Missouri-Columbia to study the extent of problem gambling on college campuses statewide.