As state-owned casinos come to Kansas, they bring both the promise of increased revenue for the state and the potential for more social problems for communities.
"We're talking about something that affects everybody in Kansas," said Esther Maddux, Kansas State University professor of personal financial planning.
Maddux is joining Jean Holthaus from the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to educate Kansans about the social costs of problem gambling. Both have training and experience helping people deal with problem gambling. They are facilitating a K-State class Aug. 4 and 5 in Dodge City to help the community prepare for a casino coming to the town. More information on the class is available at http://tinyurl.com/qfgsg7
Local facilitators are Debbie Snapp, executive director of Catholic Social Services for Dodge City, and Ethel Schneweis, Ford County Extension director.
Maddux and Holthaus first offered the course in January in Topeka. The class gives Kansans an overview of prevention, responsible gambling, treatment, recovery, legislative issues, financial and legal aspects of gambling and how problem gambling will impact individuals, families and communities.
Maddux brings her expertise in the intersection of personal behaviors and personal financial planning. Her work involves helping people see how their behavior affects the way they handle money while motivating them to change those behaviors to successfully manage their finances. She is working on a book on the topic.
"Cash flow, net worth and debt management inventories are an expression of how people organize their behaviors around their use of money," Maddux said. "Once they see the behaviors creating the problems, they can start the correction process. If you string enough days with the new behavior together, you will ultimately see it expressed in reducing deficits on debt inventory and net worth statements."
According to Maddux and Holthaus, people from many sectors of Kansas communities have a stake in expanded gaming, particularly because state law legislates that 2 percent of revenues from casinos go toward gambling and addiction recovery. That's why they're reaching out to professionals in local government, public health, services for older adults, corrections, nonprofits, treatment centers, the people operating the casinos, as well as students.
"Gaming brings increased revenue to the city and increased jobs, and there's a lot of excitement in that," Holthaus said. "What we know about gambling is that the majority of people can gamble for fun and not have a problem."
A recent survey done in Oregon reported that 60 percent gambled for entertainment and fun, 12 percent to socialize and 7 percent to win money. Holthaus said the latter group has a higher risk for problem gambling than the rest of the adult population.
Holthaus also said that research suggests 1 percent to 3 percent of the population will become pathological gamblers and 3 percent to 6 percent will have problems with gambling. Pathological and problem gambling come with social costs, like an increase in such crimes such as forgery and auto theft, along with the financial costs of bankruptcy, embezzlements and unemployment. She said that in addition to relationship and mental health issues, problem gambling can carry with it physical symptoms like anxiety, depression and asthma.
Maddux said this makes a difference when treating clients.
"A part of the treatment planning process is identifying and finding positive solutions to the multidimensional issues people are experiencing when they seek treatment," she said.
In addition to being a certified financial planner, Maddux also is an addiction and prevention services certified counselor and certified problem gambling counselor. She said that from her clinical experience, gambling often appears with other problems, such as alcohol or drug misuse.
"When I work in clinic, there are people who present with just gambling problems alone," she said. "However, it's not uncommon to see chemical abuse or other behavioral problems."
Certain sectors of the population may be more vulnerable to problem gambling, according to Maddux and Holthaus, such as older adults and people with lower incomes who can be attracted to the hope of a big win. In turn, this can strain communities if more people seek food stamps or help from local charities. The latest research, the facilitators said, shows that 18 percent of men and women in rescue missions cite gambling as the cause of their homelessness.
"If there are opportunities to intervene with people who have problems with gambling, we have an obligation to see that opportunities are in place to address those problems," Maddux said.