Montana has more than 1,400 licensed gambling operators and more than 16,000 gambling machines, but no public funding for those in need of help with gambling addiction. What limited help is available is solely funded by private donations from the gambling industry.
While donations from the gambling industry help those with gambling disorders in larger cities, advocate groups fear the smaller towns in outlying areas receive no funding at all.
The Montana Council on Problem Gambling is a nonprofit organization offering a helping hand to those in need of counseling for gambling addiction. Currently, 15 to 20 counselors report 1,700 client interactions over the course of a year. But the amount of help needed throughout the state can’t be covered by the existing counselors.
Tax revenue from Montana’s gambling machines totaled $16.2 million in 2019, all of which goes to the state general fund. From there it is distributed throughout the state according to the yearly budget allocations.
According to the executive director of the Montana Council on Problem Gambling, Brad Longcake, “If we were able to get additional funding, we would hire additional counselors, which we can then put in more communities around Montana. That’s the goal of the council to try and get awareness out so we can touch all those different communities,” Longcake said.
Currently, most of the private funding comes from trade association partners including casinos and gas stations. In 2017 the council reported $181,667 in income from donors.
Most casinos offer information for those facing gambling addiction, including contacts for groups which offer those services. Many also offer self-exclusion options, but the need for publicly funded gambling counseling remains.
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