Survey: 1 in 12 Kansas gamblers betting more than they can afford

The first comprehensive study of gambling behaviors and attitudes since three state-owned casinos opened indicates that a significant number of Kansans are gambling — and that some are betting more than they think they can afford.

The telephone survey of 1,600 adults conducted in October and November found that half of respondents had gambled in the previous 30 days. Of that group, one in 12 reported betting more than they could afford to lose. And one in 11 wanted to cut back on the amount of time or money they spent betting.

Almost half of respondents, 47 percent, played the lottery, and more than a third, 36 percent, played slot machines, video poker, video keno or video blackjack at a casino.

Only 1 percent said they had a problem with gambling most of the time; 6 percent said they had a problem with gambling sometimes.

A sizable percentage said they had been affected by the gambling behavior of another person — 13 percent by a friend, 12 percent by a family member and 8 percent by someone else.

The survey was available at a gambling-related suicide workshop held Wednesday in Wichita by the Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling. The workshop was attended by about 50 mental health professionals from around the state.

The survey was conducted on behalf of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services and paid for out of the problem gambling fund supported by casino money. The department said it will use the survey to develop an action plan to prevent and treat problem gambling.

The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent, found that of the recent gamblers, 20 percent statewide said they considered their gambling frequency to be “very often” or “often.” Within the three casino zones, Sedgwick County was highest, at 25 percent.

More than half of all respondents agreed, or strongly agreed, with the statements “Gambling is dangerous for family life” (61 percent), and “Gambling is a harmful form of entertainment” (51 percent).

Many others said they believed that “casinos are a good place to socialize” (48 percent), and “on balance, gambling is good for society” (30 percent).

Of the 1,600 respondents, 400 lived in Sedgwick County, and they tended to view gambling more positively than the rest of the state.

Only 41 percent of Sedgwick County respondents agreed or strongly agreed that gambling is a harmful form of entertainment, compared with 51 percent statewide. Thirty-six percent of the county respondents agreed or strongly agreed that on balance, gambling is good for society, compared with 30 percent for the rest of the state, and 37 percent felt gambling “is an important part of cultural life,” compared with 30 percent overall.

Significantly fewer of the Sedgwick County respondents who had gambled within the previous 30 days said they gambled “just to win money” (38 percent) than statewide (46 percent). Entertainment and the excitement of gambling were the top reasons for gambling among respondents in the county and rest of the state.

Sedgwick County respondents also were more optimistic that they could affect the outcomes of their gambling. Twenty percent of the county respondents believed that using personal lucky techniques can help people win at gambling, compared with only 12 percent of the respondents statewide.

The Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane drew the most visits from the statewide respondents who had gambled at casinos in the previous 30 days (29 percent), followed by the Prairie Band Casino in Mayetta (26 percent), Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City (23 percent), and Hollywood Casino in Wyandotte County (20 percent).

The survey found that the vast majority of Kansas adults felt it was either “very important” or “important” to use public funds to make problem gambling treatment available and affordable, and to educate young people in school about the risks of gambling.

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