TOPEKA — A survey says up to 9 percent of Kansans are at risk of developing a gambling problem and that 26 percent of the state’s residents could be affected by the uncontrolled gambling of a relative or friend.
The survey was presented Wednesday to the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and members of the state’s problem gambling task force. The telephone survey of 1,600 adults in Kansas was conducted for the department to help determine how the state should spend $400,000 in new funding to combat problem gambling.
Legislators increased the funding for problem gambling programs to $1.2 million in fiscal 2013-14, which began July 1. The increase was in response to concerns that Kansas was benefiting financially from gambling but doing too little to treat gambling problems.
Kansas has three state-owned casinos and a statewide lottery.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that a member of the firm that conducted the survey, Doug Ballou, said the age of residents likely to feel the effects of gambling ranged from teenagers to retirees.
“There’s never really going to be enough money” to help problem gamblers and those affected by it, Ballou said. “We can ill afford to send mixed messages.”
The survey says one in six gamblers did so to win money to pay bills or cope with everyday problems. The lottery was the most common form of gambling cited, with 47 percent of adults playing in the past year.
In addition, one-fifth of residents who seldom or never gambled said they refrained because of the distance to casinos, rather than any lack of interest in gambling.
Jean Holthaus, manager of problem gambling services for Aging and Disability Services, said a plan was being developed to help problem gamblers.
The plan could include more advertising about gambling’s dangers, more outpatient treatment, workforce training for gambling addicts and a better statewide hotline. The hotline offers guidance for gambling addicts on treatment options.