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Dodge City ahead of the

curve in prepping for

problem gamers

By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register

(At right is the Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City, set to open in December.)

Debbie Snapp, Executive Director of CSS, recently attended three days of classes presented by Kansas State University designed to examine the impact of a new casino on a community.
She said that less than 10 percent of all gamblers develop a pathological gaming problem, but it’s those 10 percent who contribute more than 50 percent of the casino’s revenue.
“It’s the problem gamers who really contribute most of the revenues to the casino,” Snapp said. “There’s that business tension of how can they maximize their profits and still be sure they don’t take advantage of people who have a problem.”

Fortunately, State officials have determined that Dodge City is “ahead of the curve” in preparing for these and other problems that may arise.   
Mike Tamburelli, manager of Boot Hill Casino, which is due to open in December, said that signs containing gaming addiction information and hotlines will be placed near the casino doors, on the slot machines, on the ATMs, and even in the bathrooms. Staff will be trained to be attentive to the signs and symptoms that a person may be in trouble, such as if an individual is spending an excessive amount of time at a slot machine. Even the bathroom attendants will be trained in case he or she finds someone crying or agitated.
Kansas has instigated a “self-exclusion” program, by which individuals who know they have a gambling problem can choose to be excluded from state-owned casinos for either two years or for life. If signed on to the two-year ban, after that time has passed the individual will be evaluated by a certified gambling addiction counselor and will have to undergo a series of “life-skill” workshops before being able to gamble. Those on the lifetime ban can never gamble in a state-owned casino in Kansas. If a person on the ban list were to return to a casino and win a jackpot, he or she would not be allowed to keep it.
Finally, there are 11 certified gambling counselors in a five county area in and around Dodge City available to treat problem gamers.
“We feel that we’re in pretty good shape to start,” Snapp said. “Most of the problems will come four to five years down the road. People don’t always walk in the door being addicted. It’s a progressive thing, so as time goes on there will be more people with problems, and the social cost will be more evident.
“It’s a hidden problem,” Snapp added. “You can be in really serious trouble with money for a long time before anyone really notices it. There are people whose farm is gone before anybody discovers they have a gambling problem.”
The certified counselors are trained to help families that are suddenly faced with tremendous debt. Snapp said that bankruptcy is the “worst thing for an addicted gambler because it absolves him of responsibility. The important thing in working with them to make sure they stay responsible for the harm they’ve caused.”
There are currently four tribal casinos in Kansas, all of which are located in the northeast part of the state. Boot Hill Casino will be approximately six and a half hours from the next closest casino. Needless to say, the casino will be quite popular.
“One of the things I really feel clear about after listening to the plans of the State – what with the self-exclusion program, the gambling hotline, a problem gaming website, with the social service providers, with the addiction counselors gearing up and making sure they’re ready, and the casino taking their responsible role -- I think Dodge City is really in a good position to be able to balance opportunity with responsibility. And I think that’s the personality of this community; our history shows that’s kind of what we do: if there’s a problem, we figure out how we’re going to solve it.
“We’re ahead of where you would expect a community to be that’s getting ready to roll something like this out.”  

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