Gambling task forces question Kansas' funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Members of three problem-gambling task forces in Kansas say a fund intended to treat gambling and other addictions is not being properly used.

The law that allowed three state-owned casinos to open in Mulvane, Dodge City and Wyandotte County requires that 2 percent of gambling revenue from the casinos go to the Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund. However, most of the money has been allocated for Medicaid expenditures, The Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/17562Si ).

Members of the three task forces were told at Wednesday's Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling meeting that each group would receive $10,000 from fund in fiscal 2014, the same amount as this fiscal year. They complained that wasn't enough.

"We need now to be building our infrastructure, and having just $10,000 a year for each task force is a very insignificant amount," Stephenie Roberts, chairwoman of the South Central Problem Gambling Task Force, said after the meeting.

And JoAnn Briles-Klein, a gambling counselor in Wichita and member of the same task force, said that keeping funding flat is a slap in the face of volunteers who work long hours.

"To fund it at a flat-line rate, I'm sorry, that's not good enough," she told Angela Hagen, director of mental health for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, which oversees the gambling fund. State lawmakers have allowed the department to use most of the money in the fund for Medicaid costs.

This year, the state budgeted $740,000 of the more than $9 million generated for the fund for problem gambling. Gov. Sam Brownback's 2014 budget includes an increase to $1.88 million for problem gambling.

Hagen said $545,000 was committed, which doesn't include treatment. And she said budgeting will increase for treatment, based on data from last year, although final numbers won't be available until September.