We admit we're not experts on how gambling becomes a problem for some people and not others.
We do know, however, that real life problems and unwise decisions can be magnified at the gaming tables, the slots and even for some playing the lottery. The evidence on this point is clear.
A recent telephone survey by the state of Kansas finds that up to 9 percent of residents are at risk for developing a gambling problem, with 1 in 6 gamblers admitting they do so to pay bills or cope with everyday problems. The study concludes a fourth of Kansans could be affected by the uncontrolled gambling of a relative or friend.
These statistics remind us of the need for Kansas, Missouri and the gaming industry to be proactive in trying to curb problem gamblers.
• Missouri lawmakers, with support of the casinos, this spring approved what they said would be a greater deterrent for underage gamblers — people under 21 who enter casinos, usually with fake identification.
Lawmakers agreed to lower the offense from a misdemeanor to an infraction but impose a $500 mandatory fine, on the theory the certainty of a substantial penalty would help. Gov. Jay Nixon disagreed with this approach and vetoed the bill. For now, there is no change in the law.
• The Missouri Lottery, following in the footsteps of casino regulators, now allows lottery players to ban themselves from collecting prizes valued at $600 or more. “Our hope is that those with a gambling problem will sign up for the voluntary program,” says Executive Director May Scheve Reardon.
• Missouri casinos this week are participating in the industry’s Responsible Gaming Education Week. Employees will be taking refresher training on how to promote responsible gaming and providing brochures, including “The House Advantage: A Guide to Understanding the Odds.”
Other materials are focused on explaining how slot machines work, talking to children about gambling, and promoting 1-888-BETSOFF — the statewide telephone crisis line and referral service for problem gambling.
The vast majority of people who choose to gamble do it for the recreation and don’t have a problem knowing when to fold. Regulators and the industry must remain vigilant in helping those who don’t.