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Recovery centers may need more funds to treat sports betting addictions

Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 3:56 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - South Dakota is rolling the bones on sports betting for its potential boost to gambling revenue, but there’s a looming discussion on the horizon.

South Dakota sits below the national average of adults with a gambling problem at 1.4%, according to the 2016 Survey of Problem Gambling Services in the United States. To help combat gambling addictions, South Dakota Lottery has a problem gambling helpline number, 1-888-781-HELP, on the back of every lotto ticket sold and slot machine used in the state.

However, Addiction Recovery Centers of the Black Hills CEO Julie Birner predicts more adults will pick up gambling as a nasty habit once they can wager close to home.

“Now that’s it’s not illegal, that is going to become problem. Because they’re not going to have to go to Las Vegas anymore to do any sports betting. They’ll be able to do the sports betting here.”

Laurie Gill, Cabinet Secretary for the DSS, says the legalization of sports betting may force the department to up the ante of the gambling treatment budget in the coming years.

“Depending on how the landscape is changing, that could change with it. So, we’re continuously evaluating what services we have available and where we have treatment available," Gill says.

South Dakota spends 20 cents per capita on gambling treatment services, a little more than half of the national average, raising the questions of whether treatment centers might be strained by a potential influx of people seeking help.

The Addiction Recovery Centers of the Black Hills receives annual funding from the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS). A portion of that money is dedicated to treat problem gamblers.

Birner says those funds quickly dried up: “right now, we’ve pretty much used up three-fourths of the contract which just started in June."

She attributes the rapid drain on those funds to their updated protocol that has helped them diagnose more people as pathological gamblers. The recovery center CEO also says people are generally more aware of the concept of “problem gambling” and can more easily identify the behavior in themselves or others.

The cabinet secretary reaffirmed the DSS’ commitment to battling addictive behaviors: "irregardless of the landscape - of what’s going on in South Dakota out there - we will be there ... the families of South Dakota are our foundation and our future.”

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