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The state of Arkansas has been receiving money from gambling avenues for quite some time now. Although they have taken the tax money from these gambling establishments, they have done nothing to ensure problem gamblers have a place to go for treatment.
In November, voters approved a state run lottery. Previously, Arkansas had been one of the few states that did not have a state lottery. They did, however, have other forms of gambling such as pari-mutuel and electronic machine betting.
While the new Bill is being drafted to deal with the lottery, House Speaker Robbie Wills claims that money will be used from the lottery to finance problem gambling treatment.
“We have a provision in here that will take a portion of the unclaimed prize money…and we will direct that to the Department of Health to contribute to the programs they have to treat compulsive gambling disorders,’ said Wills.
The only problem with that is there are no such programs within the Department of Health in the state. “That may be where the Bill is going in the future, but we don’t have those programs set up now,” Health Department Spokeswoman Ann Wright told The Morning News of Arkansas.
While the state claims that there are counselors who are trained to deal with gambling addiction, others believe that problem gambling is an addiction that needs individual attention.
“Of course counselors can de4al with any form of addiction, but that does not mean that they understand the specific problems related to gambling addiction. For the House Speaker to not know that no specific problem gambling programs exist in a state that has legally allowed gambling, it is shocking,” said observer William Narbendie.
The Bill would call for a minimum of $200,000 going to help problem gambling, but with no programs in sight, many are left to wonder where that money will, or has, gone.
The Department of Health has acknowledged that they have received funds for problem gambling. They have used that money to fund addiction treatment in local community health centers. It still does not answer the question of why there is no specific treatment programs for problem gamblers.
Programs are available to Arkansas but have not yet been tapped as resources. The National Council on Problem Gambling has affiliate groups in many states, but as of now none of them are in Arkansas.
“It is important that if these lawmakers are going to continue to create a Bill that involves expanded gambling, then they need to first do their homework. The House Speaker and anyone else involved in this process need to explore how they can set up help for potential problem gambling situations before they expand gambling in the state through a lottery,” said Narbendie.