Kentucky lawmakers mull responsible gambling funding increase
Gambling-related harm treatment advocates meet with officials as estimated Bluegrass State problem-gambler numbers reaches 64,000
Kentucky state officials have met with gambling-related harm treatment advocates to discuss a potential use of public funds in combatting escalating problem gambling among its citizens.
In the meeting which took place last week, treatment groups called for a statewide program with dedicated public funding to raise awareness of problem gambling in the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG) executive director Mike Stone was one of the attendees at the meeting, speaking to officials from the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations.
Stone drew on KYCPG’s research data which indicated as many as 64,000 Kentucky residents are addicted to gambling, with another 165,000 exhibiting problem gambling behavior.
“The prevention and awareness aspect of this issue may be even more important as our society moves towards a legitimatization and acceptance of gambling as part of our culture,” Stone told officials at the meeting.
“We need to have programs that educate and make people aware of what the potential is, and that is also what a large part of the money that we’re talking about would go toward,” he added.
In support of its call for extra funding, KYCPG has said a broadbase gambling prevention and program for dealing with gambling addicts would need approximately $1.4m in funding during its first year of operations, rising to more than $3.7m by year five of operation.
The council has called on the state legislature to redistribute funding from tax revenues received from gaming operations to pay for statewide public awareness and prevention initiatives and treatment services.
In addition, calls to the Lexington-based Gamblers Anonymous phoneline have more than doubled over the last two years, with the 1-800-GAMBLER hotline also reporting an increase in calls.
In the prior legislator session, attempts were made to provide additional funding for gambling-related harm causes through funds obtained by the state during its multi-million-dollar dispute with Flutter Entertainment subsidiary PokerStars over alleged illegal gambling in the state.
The dispute, which was resolved in September 2021, saw the firm agree to pay more than $300m to Kentucky in the form of bonds and cash payments.
Attempting to use these funds, officials filed House Bill 609 which called for $225m of funds received to fund a statewide problem gambling program, a figure eventually whittled down to $75m in funding following legislator debate.
Passing through the Kentucky house of representatives by an overwhelming vote, the bill was ultimately frustrated on the Senate floor, failing to pass through before legislators were dismissed in April.