Kansas lawmakers are mulling over the possibility of legalizing lottery vending machines as a means to fund the state’s struggling mental health system. Such machines are used in 37 other lottery states.
The idea, floated by Rep. Chuck Weber, R-Wichita, is expected to increase funding to mental health services by $12 million over two years. Kansas has been under extreme budget stress the past few years as it looks for new ways to fund state programs. The recession and budget cuts resulted in a loss of $30 million toward mental health programs in the state during the past eight years, according to media reports.
“Do I think it’s great policy? Not necessarily, but we cannot sustain any more cuts,” said Kyle Kessler, executive director of the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas Inc.
Weber said, “I’m not a big gambling guy, but if we’re going to expand access, then maybe this is a way to turn something I’m not terribly excited about and turn it into a positive,” he said.
Anti-gambling advocates are worried minors might buy tickets from the vending machines. They add that giving people the ability to buy lottery tickets in this manner might be counter-productive for those with a gambling addiction, itself considered a mental health problem.