Currently, there are only seven states in the US which do not spend money to fund gambling addiction treatment, with Arkansas being one of them.
The fact that problem gambling goes largely unchecked across the state, however, does not seem to bother pro-gambling campaigners who are collecting signatures in order to be able to put a constitutional amendment issue on the November ballot, aimed at winning permission for two new casinos.
The casino venues, which are planned to be situated in Russellville and in Jefferson County, respectively, have been a largely controversial topic over the past few months. In addition, the ballot issue is set to invest an amount of at least $200,000 in gambling addiction treatment services.
Keith Whyte, the Director of the National Council on Gambling Prevention (NCGP), however, said that the above-mentioned amount of money was insignificant, especially when compared to the state’s needs. Mr. Whyte explained that the percentage of gambling addicts in the state of Arkansas is much larger than the national average, and problem gambling cases are often very severe due to the lack of adequate help for the gamblers.
He opposed the introduction of more gambling options in the state, saying that the addition of two more casinos in Arkansas would increase the level of problem gambling even more, without any measures of protection for local customers.
Problem Gambling Research Has Never Been Made in Arkansas
According to the National Council on Gambling Prevention’s estimates, approximately 2% of local citizens, which account for about 48,000 people, are dealing with gambling addiction. What is even more worrying, is the fact that the state of Arkansas has never initiated a research on the problem or its possible solutions.
According to the organization, $3.5 million may be a good amount to start with, when it comes to problem gambling prevention and treatment in the state. However, this amount is based only on the number of lottery players, which means it excludes race tracks and games offered at Southland in West Memphis and Oaklawn in Hot Springs.
Years ago, there actually existed a hotline for gambling addicts in the state, but it was closed in 2015 after local legislature made a decision to redirect funds accumulated from the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery to other initiatives rather than problem gambling services.
The ballot committee which has been supporting the Arkansas Casino Gaming Amendment of 2018 still does not seem worried about the possible impact which the two new casinos could have on local gambling addicts. The Committee’s legal counsel Nate Steel commented that the players who have been facing some problem gambling issues have already been exposed to gambling options, and the addition of two more casinos would not hurt them more than they have already been hurt. He shared that the two new casinos are not expected to substantially increase the amount of compulsive gambling across the state, but it could be a great opportunity to raise more money for dealing with problem gambling.