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New Problem Gambling Bill Makes Its Play

September 18, 2009
by Daniel Guarnera
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With an unprecedented48 states facing budget shortfalls in fiscal year 2010, legislators are desperate to find revenue sources that save them from the rock-and-hard-place of unpopular tax hikes and unpopular cuts in services. It's not surprising then that state legislators are allured by the revenue promised by expanding legal gambling. Gamblers want the chance to voluntarily
give away their money, and state governments can rake in healthy profits--it's win-win! The federal government alone pockets well over $5 billion in tax revenue annually from the gaming industry. As state fiscal problems continue, it's likely that we'll see gambling operations increase.
Photo from Flickr user morburg; used with a Creative Commons license. The gaming sector is huge and growing (the word "gaming" is preferred by industry proponents, since "games" are harmless fun, whereas "gambling" is risky). Excluding online and sports betting, annual legal gambling revenue is over
$90 billion and growing rapidly--as a point of comparison, the entire U.S. brewing industry's revenues are about
$18 billion. Of course, that $90 billion is also the measure of individual gamblers' annual losses. The costs of problem gambling are significant and under-recognized (see Addiction Professional's
recent article about research about gambling). It's estimated that about 1% of adults are pathological gamblers, and about 3% are problem gamblers. About twice that many are considered "at risk." As with substance use disorders, however, the number of people affected by problem gambling extends to spouses, children, employers, neighbors, and beyond. Problem gambling is estimated to cost society about $7 billion each year, including bankruptcies, divorces, crime, and job losses. Only
34 states provide public problem gambling services of any kind (and many of these services are extremely modest), more than 40 operate
state lotteries. The intersection of problem gambling and substance use disorders is enormous--over
three-in-four problem gamblers have an alcohol or other substance use disorder. They are at heightened risk for co-occurring depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions as well. The

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Gambling has been major problem for years, and once again goverment see it as the way out of money problems, this go back to the year 1800 or so. The issuse is that the goverment is not looking at how many people are affected by this sickness, and what is being done to help those that will fall because of this addiction. Maybe the bill on Capitol Hill will make a different and help those in need.

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Daniel Guarnera

Daniel Guarnera is the Director of Government Relations for NAADAC, The Association for...