Topeka Even while revenues from two new state-owned casinos are expected to increase state revenue by millions of dollars, fewer dollars will be available this fiscal year for a fund designed to help people struggling with gambling addictions.
The Kansas Star Casino, which opened Monday near Mulvane, and another casino is scheduled to open in February in Wyandotte County are expected to generate $29 million in state revenue in six months. That will add to revenue already coming into the state from the Boot Hill Casino & Resort in Dodge City since it opened in December 2009.
By law, 2 percent of gambling revenue in Kansas must go to the Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund, which is designed to treat problem gamers and people with other addictions, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.
The casinos and state lottery are expected to generate $3 million for the fund this fiscal year. Lawmakers approved $717,000 to fight gambling addiction, including salaries for three gambling specialists. That’s a drop from $740,000 invested in the fund last year. Only 6 percent of the fund’s overall receipts, or $200,000, is budgeted for direct counseling of gambling addicts, the newspaper reported.
The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services controls the fund, rather than the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission or the Kansas Lottery. Gaming commission chairman William Falstad urged the Legislature to grant his agency a role in handling money for treatment.
The state has an ethical obligation to effectively help problem gamblers emerging from the new casinos, he said. “We have no control over that money,” Falstad said. “We turn it over to them. We want to make sure they are serving problem gamblers.”
While Boot Hill Casino forwarded $1.5 million to the fund in two years, the Dodge City region has received modest grants that don’t meet the needs, an agency official said.
“Community members are really concerned with that fund,” said Deborah Snapp, executive director of Catholic Social Service in Dodge City and chairwoman of the Southwest Kansas Problem Gambling Task Force. “We really feel like that was a promise made to Ford County.”
The 1,300-slot Kansas Star Casino is operating 20 miles from Wichita, but the Wichita Area Problem Gaming Task Force is waiting to hear about new SRS grant funding.
Carol Spiker, responsible gaming coordinator with the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, said two-thirds of 55 Kansas residents who placed themselves on the voluntary exclusion list by November came from the southwest region of the state, where Dodge City is located.
Sixteen percent of people prohibiting themselves from claiming casino winnings were from northeast Kansas, where gamblers have access to tribal casinos in Mayetta, Horton, White Cloud and Powhattan, as well as four casinos in Kansas City, Mo.
National statistics suggest 3 percent of Kansas residents will have a problem with gambling. A 2005 study by the University of Buffalo indicated the probability of becoming addicted to gambling doubled among people living within 10 miles of a casino.