WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly proclaimed March as “problem gambling awareness month” for the state Wednesday.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) said problem gambling is defined as “All gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.”

Problem Gambling Awareness Month is designed to help raise awareness of the prevention, treatment and recovery services, and harm reduction strategies available to those adversely affected by gambling.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

The proclamation comes shortly after the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission (KRGC) said it has received three applications from companies to open historical horse racing (HHR) facilities in Wichita.

The KDADS, in collaboration with the Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling (KCPG), recognizes March as PGAM as part of the national campaign held annually. This year’s campaign theme is “Celebrating 20 Years.”

Approximately 2 million U.S. adults (1% of the population) are estimated to meet the criteria for severe problem gambling, according to the KDADS. Another 4-6 million (2-3%) meet the criteria for mild or moderate problem gambling.

“Problem gambling affects thousands of Kansans of all ages, races and ethnic backgrounds and can have a significant societal and economic cost for individuals, families, businesses, and communities,” the KDADS states.

“The good news is problem gambling is treatable, and treatment is effective in minimizing harm,” KDADS Problem Gambling Program Manager Carol Spiker, LAC, KCGC, said. “It’s vital to de-stigmatize issues around problem gambling so we can reach more people to let them know there are programs and information out there to address their problem head-on.”

If you or a loved one need help with a gambling problem, you can call the Kansas Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700. According to the KDADS, the call is free and confidential.

The KDADS says no-cost treatment is available to problem gamblers and concerned others through the Problem Gambling and Addictions Grant Fund.

One intervention tool, or harm reduction strategy, that has seen success in recent years in Kansas is the self-exclusion program, according to the KDADS.

KDADS states that self-exclusion is a voluntary process where a person bans themselves from entering specific gambling venues or from accessing online providers.

All Kansas gambling providers are required to provide the option to customers to self-exclude from accessing their venue or their products, according to the KDADES. Individuals enter into an agreement that excludes them for an agreed minimum period of time.

The agreements authorize venue management to take reasonable steps to remove individuals on the self-exclusion list from state-owned casino property or the online gaming app of a state-owned casino. For some, self-exclusion is a step taken when other methods of minimizing harm have been tried without much success. For others, self-exclusion can be the first step.

For more information about problem gambling and the resources available in Kansas, go to ksgamblinghelp.com.