Help for people with gambling problems, is underfunded in Kansas

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Kansas owned casinos are on a roll. According to the states latest report, last year the states four casinos rake-in $337 million dollars, a new state record.

2017 Kansas Owned Casino Profits

Kansas Crossing Casino - $22.8 million

Kansas Star - $179.8 million

Boot Hill Casino - $39.9 million

Hollywood Casino - $147.0 million

Total - $337.5 million

By law, 2% of that profit goes into the states Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund. The money is supposed to be used to help people with gambling addictions but Stephenie Roberts, a state-certified gambling counselor and a member of the South-Central Problem Gambling Task Force, says more and more of the money is going elsewhere.

"I applaud the legislature which created the problem gambling fund that was a brilliant move, but it needs to be regulated by a commission that has no vested interest in how the money is spent," said Roberts.

In April, a state audit found that over the last three years, between $2.2 million and $2.5 million has been transferred from the fund to other funds and agencies by legislative budget directives. However, the transferred funds are not used to provide services to individuals with gambling or other addictions because the legislature has directed the money to funds with other types of specific purposes. 

Roberts said, "That's what it was designed for, and that's what it should be used for, if that were to happen, we could see miracle happened in this state."

The audit concluded the services for people with gambling disorders have declined. JoAnn Briles-Klein, a state-licensed certified gambling counselor in Wichita, says, "Most people have no idea that it's a disorder they could be addicted too. Prevention is probably our best bet." She says more advertising needs to be done, so people know the disorder exists and that it's treatable.

"People with gambling disorder lots of time it sneaks up on them, they do not know it an addiction until they are in the deepest throes and they have lost everything and sometimes they just do not see a way out," said Briles-Klein.

Instead, more than 90% of the money in the special fund is going to other things, like Medicaid and drug and alcohol programs. The state has also outsourced its 24-hour hotline and counselors say its lead to fewer referrals.

"We know the gamblers are out there, but they are not making their way into treatment our counseling services," said Roberts. She says its partially a marketing problem and believes more money could warn people before they are hooked.