A bipartisan bill in Virginia aims to create a new gambling addiction committee to address the growing number of people seeking help with their gambling problems.
Gambling Expansion Comes at a High Cost
The bill, proposed by Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, and Del.Paul Krizek, D-Fairfax, calls for the creation of an Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling Support and Treatment with the task of facilitating collaboration between treatment providers and gambling. Operators to reduce gambling problems. “As Virginia fuels gaming expansion, it’s important that we understand the ills that come with it,” Senator Reeves said, according to the Virginia Mercury report.
The new committee will be established within the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS), which treats addiction and mental health issues. Chaired by the Problem Gambling Prevention Coordinator, the committee will include representatives from all state agencies involved in gambling regulation and the gambling industry, which is legally required to refer people struggling with resource dependency to outsiders, and one representative of the Virginia Council at Problem Gambling. This non-profit organization operates the state gambling hotline. The Virginia Lottery-funded hotline has seen a 143% increase in calls from people seeking help
over the past three years, raising questions about the high social costs of expanding lottery games by making more forms of gambling available to Virginians set and play easier. In 2021, hotline gambling saw a year-on-year increase of 114%, of which 74% was played by men, while the forms of gambling that caused problems were slot machines in a casino or at a racetrack with 17% and sports betting with 15%.
Young Adults Should Become a Priority
And as state and local governments seek additional revenue from casinos, lotteries, slot machines, sports betting, and horse racing, and the industry is booming, problem gambling is spreading, affecting underage and young people. Using the results of a 2021 survey that showed more than 21% of Virginia high school students gambled or had gambled in the past year, Krizek argued that young adults and their gambling addiction are becoming a priority for state legislatures. “What we know from prevention research is that people who start gambling in their teens are at higher risk of developing a gambling problem,” he said, noting that
it is “one of the fastest growing groups of young adults with gambling problems.” are young adults.”