If Maryland is looking to legalize real-money online casino play in the near future, a new study suggests that the state should also take steps to increase resources for people with compulsive gambling issues. The research indicates that the existing resources may not be sufficient to meet the demand.

The data indicates that Marylanders may not be aware of the resources available to them, or how to access them. Even if more money was allocated to these resources, it would not solve the issue of people dealing with gaming-related behavioral issues.

The Maryland General Assembly’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability recently conducted an Evaluation of the Center of Excellence on Problem Gambling to assess the strengths of Maryland’s resources for addressing issues of problem gambling.

The study found that “awareness of opportunities to get help” has increased over time, which is a positive statement. Additionally, the study states that Maryland spends more on problem gambling compared to most other states in the United States.

The authors of the study also state that Maryland has not used the majority of the Problem Gambling Fund’s budget for the provision of free treatment services. Nevertheless, there are certain limitations that must be taken into consideration with these positive remarks.

Research has revealed that Maryland still has some work to do when it comes to providing treatment for individuals with compulsive gambling issues. Although Maryland has not fully utilized its budget for these services, it is likely that many people with such issues are not receiving the help they need. This may be due to them seeking treatment from sources that are not connected to the state.

The data in this study indicates a rise in people in Maryland seeking information about treatment, which is difficult to explain. Specifically, there was a 51% increase in use of Maryland’s problem gambling helpline from 2020 to 2022.

In the same time frame, the number of Marylanders receiving free treatment services decreased by 11%. The data suggests that the state could benefit from expanding its gambling regulations in the future.

The Maryland Lottery and Gaming Commission announced in June that they would conduct a study to evaluate the potential consequences of legalizing online casino play in the state. This was prompted by the introduction of a bill earlier in the year that proposed legalizing online casino play.

This study suggests that, in addition to expanding access to treatment, Maryland may need to take further action to ensure that all Marylanders can access treatment. One possible obstacle that might prevent some individuals from receiving care could be distance and transportation costs.

The authors of the study note that treatment providers are mostly located in the most populous regions. Although this could be seen as a good thing, they continue to explain that four counties in the Eastern Shore region have no providers at all.

In areas of the state with the most treatment providers, there is still a large gap between the number of providers and the population. Southern Maryland has the worst ratio, with one provider for every 72,944 citizens, while the Eastern Shore has the best ratio, with one provider for every 35,309 people.

If the study suggests that almost 9% of adults in the state could benefit from problem gambling treatment, then that means each provider could potentially have a large number of people in their care – potentially hundreds or even thousands. Naturally, most of those people will not need such treatment.

The research does not only recognize a problem; it also provides ideas on how to fix it.

The authors of this study suggest that the reimbursement provided by the state to providers who participate in Maryland’s No-Cost Network for problem gambling treatment services may be a factor in the lack of resources for these services. They propose that action be taken to improve the availability of these resources.

Staff report that the primary challenge to increasing the number of providers is that many are unwilling to accept Maryland Medicaid reimbursement rates for treatment services or to go through the state’s ASO (Administrative Services Organization) to process treatment reimbursement claims.

The authors propose that the Behavioral Health Administration in Maryland should supply the Center with a list of behavioral health providers who accept Medicaid on a regular basis, in order to address any worries or anxieties.

The study recommends diversifying the revenue sources into the Problem Gambling Fund in order to attract more treatment providers and raise awareness of the resources among those who require them. If these recommendations are implemented, the next study may show improved outcomes for those who suffer from compulsive gambling issues.

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