The debate over the new wave of negotiations of the gambling compacts between the tribal governments and the state of Oklahoma has been primarily focused on the rates which local Indian tribes pay and the impact which the renegotiation of state-tribal relations could have. However, some officials believe that another important factor is being overlooked over the discussions.
According to one of them, problem gambling is a matter which everyone keeps quiet about. Wiley Harwell, an executive director of the Oklahoma Association for Problem and Compulsive Gambling, several issues related to gambling addiction would have to be addressed in case that the compacts are renegotiated. Of course, there is still a possibility this may not happen.
The problem gambling charity has been urging the state authorities to boost the funding to gambling addiction. The amount which the state Government received in 2018 from exclusivity fees for casinos totaled $139 million. This year, that amount is expected to rise to $149 million. Only about $250,000, or about one-tenth of 1% of Oklahoma’s share of casino revenue, is redirected to prevention and treatment of problem gambling.
Another problem is that the $250,000 figure has not been adjusted to the amounts which the existing casino gambling industry has been bringing to the state of Oklahoma over the past few years. Although another $750,000 in lottery proceeds is contributed to problem gambling treatment, Mr. Harwell explained that even the combined amount is not sufficient to meet the needs of the state’s gamblers.
Gambling Addiction Treatment Should Be Promoted More in the State
Campaigners also claim that more money is necessary for the promotion of treatment options which are currently available in the state for players who suffer the negative consequences of their compulsive gambling habits. Mr. Harwell has explained that many people do not know how to get help because the authorities do not have enough money to promote these services on TV or radio campaigns or by putting billboards across the state.
For a decade now, a statewide self-exclusion program has been run by the Oklahoma Association for Problem and Compulsive Gambling across the state in partnership with participating Native American tribes. As part of the program, local gamblers are given the chance to efficiently ban themselves from multiple casinos by making a request by filling out one form.
For the time being, only 17 of the 32 Oklahoma tribes which operate casino venues take part of the program. This is why the organization has called for the authorities to make the participation in the program to become obligatory for all Indian tribes which run casinos in Oklahoma. In addition, the group also believes that compact agreements between tribes and the state could be strengthened in regards to prevention of gambling-related harm and problem gambling.
Other organizations have reminded that casino gambling was once legalized by Oklahoma lawmakers under a promise that the contribution made by this form of gambling would be used for funding education programs in the state.