A study shows one in five Missourians could become gambling addicts.

In today’s world, gambling is easier than ever. Gone are the days of traveling to a casino with a pocket full of cash. Now, with the swipe of a finger and a credit card number, a bet can be made.

Studies have shown that with the increased accessibility there has also been a rise in gambling addiction. The Port KC Problem Gambling Advisory Committee, with the help of Elite Research, conducted a prevalence study last year that surveyed 3,301 Missouri adults ages eighteen and older.

The study found two out of three Missouri adults gambled within the last year and one out of twenty-five met the criteria for having a gambling disorder, with one in five considered at-risk gamblers, meaning they could easily slip into addiction. 

“It’s an addiction that gets very little attention,” says Keith Spare, chair of the gambling advisory committee. “Gambling triggers the pleasure reward center and gives the body cues that what you’re doing is a good thing. It’s exciting or it helps ease emotional pain. But at the same time, it’s costing you more and more.”

Experts agree that gambling disorders are on the rise and not just because of the ease of online gambling. Wiley Harwell, executive director of the Oklahoma Association on Problem Gambling and Gaming, says that gambling addiction is increasing due to the “gamification” of sports.

 “Companies are incorporating gambling and sporting activity,” Harwell says. “Their goal is to make the two synonymous.” This trend is already visible in places like Australia and Europe, where Premier League soccer sponsors are mostly betting companies. Many predict that this will someday be a reality in U.S. sports as well.

“That crosses state lines, whether you have sports gambling in your state or not,” Harwell says.

Right now, Missouri has minimal resources to address the issue, according to Spare, a former addiction counselor. The state only has about $500,000 to aid in problem gambling, which he says “is like putting a thimble of water on a fire.”

Harwell will join Spare in presenting the Missouri gambling disorder prevalence study at the Midwest Conference on Problem Gambling and Substance Abuse, which takes place this month in KC. Their hope is that the study will lead to greater funding for gambling disorder prevention and education. 

Signs of a Gambling Disorder
  • The need to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  • Restlessness, irritability and/or unsuccessful efforts when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Persistent gambling thoughts.
  • Gambling when feeling distressed or going through life changes.
  • Lying to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  • Jeopardized or lost relationships, jobs or other opportunities because of gambling.
  • Relying on others to provide money.

Social Media

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to our newsletters

Kansas City magazine keeps readers updated on the latest news in twice-weekly newsletter. 

On Tuesdays, Dish brings you food news and our critic picks. 

On Thursdays, The Loop offers exclusive news reports and our curated events picks.