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As casino is constructed, funding for gambling

addiction counseling plummets

 

 

By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register

When the new Dodge City casino opens its doors in December, it will do so with several hundred thousand dollars less provided for gambling addiction treatment than was suggested when the original gaming bill was passed.
    On May 8, the Kansas State Legislature approved a 2010 budget that eliminated $800,000 reserved for state-wide gambling, drug and alcohol addiction counseling. The fund would have topped off an additional 2 percent for addiction treatment taken from the annual earnings of what were to be four new Kansas casinos.
    Of the four planned Kansas casinos, only one has survived the economic downturn. The Dodge City casino is currently under construction.

    “Now, with Dodge having the only casino remaining, it lessons the amount of money that would be available, because this was by far the smallest casino that was going to be built,” explained Debbie Snapp, Executive Director of Catholic Social Service.
    Without the $800,000, and without the additional revenue from the other three casinos, statewide funding for addiction treatment has taken a nosedive.
    “The estimate for the 2 percent from the Dodge City casino generated was at $600,000, and that’s what was put in the budget, but most people think that the amount that will actually be generated is closer to $300,000 to $400,000,” said Snapp. “So basically, [then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius] took the $800,000 for drug and alcohol services, replaced it with much less money that was supposed to be additional money to help address the increase of problems that are likely from the casino.
    “It’s really unfortunate and it’s compounded by the issue that here we are, the only survivor, and the dollars that really should be helping us build capacity to address addiction issues will be scattered throughout the state at a much less amount,” Snapp added.
    She stressed that she was sympathetic to budgetary constraints in the current economic times, and understands that everyone has to tighten their belts.
    The difficulty is that the cuts could result in creating “more competition for clients and providers to get access to the dollars because there will be a lot fewer dollars available.” In other words, there will be fewer programs available to help problem gamblers.
    Kansas Representative Pat George, who, with Rep. Charlie Roth, pushed hard for the 2 percent increase over the original 1 percent in the gaming bill, spoke to the Register the day after the budget passed on May 8.  
    “We were hoping to increase that budget,” Rep. George said. “No agency has been spared in our state government, just like most families have been affected by this economic downturn….”
    While displeased with the result, Rep. George said, “I guess I’m okay with it as long as we get it restored when we start coming out [of the recession]. We made every effort to spell that out in the bill, and since then we have been reminding people that we’re watching that pretty closely so we can go back in there and restore that extra $600,000 or $800,000, so we will be able to provide more services, especially as gaming becomes more prevalent. If there’s anyone who has a problem with gaming, we want to be able to provide help.”
    Just when or if the economy improves to the point that the extra funding can be restored is anyone’s guess. Meanwhile, while studies – such as the University’s “Gambling Impact and Behavioral Study” – indicates that while casinos can be a boon to the local economy, they also report a significant rise in those seeking help for gambling addiction.
    “As a recovering person myself -- nearly 17 years clean and sober – this subject hits near and dear to me,” Rep. George said. “I know about the pain inflicted from the disease, not just to the person who has the disease, but to those closely around him. I also know there’s help out there. Seventeen years ago if there wasn’t help for me I’d be dead or in jail. Some of my best friends I ran with back then are dead or locked up. It pretty much ranks at the top of my list of things I have a passion for.”

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