The Garden City Telegram
2/2/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Safer bet

Finally, Kansas boosts plan to address problem gambling.

When Kansas got into the gambling business, state officials knew the income to the state would be beneficial.

They also knew there would be serious problems as some gamblers racked up painful financial losses.

Whether it's lotteries, Keno, scratch tickets or casino gambling, Kansans interested in trying their luck in hopes of cashing in have choices.

While the majority of Kansans who gamble do so in moderation, evidence in recent years has pointed to a surge in gamblers who do go too far, and experience personal financial crises and other problems.

Unfortunately, with new casinos popping up and access to gambling becoming more convenient, the state stumbled in offering help for those gamblers with serious issues.

State law requires 2 percent of the state's net casino revenue to be put into a problem gambling fund. But the state reportedly took casino and lottery revenues that should have gone to programs to help Kansans with gambling and other addictions, and spent them on other government services.

Early statistics after casino gambling took off showed thousands of Kansans in trouble because of their gambling, with only a scant few receiving assistance from the fund.

Kansas had no business leaning on gamblers for significant state funding, then snatching away dollars set aside to address problems.

One recent attempt to help has arrived in a new public awareness campaign from the Kansas Responsible Gambling Alliance.

The campaign, "Know Your Limits," asks Kansans who gamble to assess their gambling attitudes and behaviors, and understand their risk or predisposition toward a more serious disorder.

Certified gambling counselors have been enlisted in Kansas, and treatment is available at no out-of-pocket cost to problem gamblers, family members and friends who may be concerned about a gambler's situation.

The state's problem gambling initiatives also include training opportunities for behavioral health professionals, grants for community outreach and prevention and a voluntary exclusion program.

Overdue as they may be, such efforts are needed in a state that's been eager to cash in on gambling receipts, but slow to come to the table with adequate assistance for gamblers in trouble.