Responsible Gambling Help Is Focus Of Congressional Proposal

Responsible Gambling

Citing a need for more funding to treat problem gambling issues, two lawmakers on Capitol Hill unveiled their plan Thursday to use the federal excise tax on sports betting wagers to channel money toward responsible gambling solutions.

U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas, a Democrat from Oregon, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, announced their Gambling addiction Recovery, Investment and Treatment (GRIT) Act. In a statement, the lawmakers said they acted because they saw public health departments and nonprofit providers struggling to get the needed resources to treat a growing concern as legal online sports betting becomes available in more states.

“The growing legalization of sports and online betting, paired with the ability to place bets from your phone whenever you want, have created a perfect storm for gambling addiction,” Blumenthal said. “Dedicated federal resources to tackle problem gambling head-on will provide much-needed support, resources, and treatment for those suffering from gambling addiction.”

The GRIT Act would dedicate half of the revenue generated by the 0.25% tax on sports betting handle to cover gambling addiction treatment and research. Three-quarters of that would be available to states through block grants, and the remaining 25% would go to the National Institute of Drug Abuse so it could award research grants.

If passed, the Department for Health and Human Services would oversee the initiative for 10 years, with the HHS secretary providing Congress a status report within its first three years.

How Much Money Would GRIT Act Provide For Problem Gambling?

The excise tax funding would be a substantial sum and significantly boost treatment and research.

Not every state has a dedicated funding stream for problem gambling education and treatment. Even in most of those that do, the per capita amount does not surpass $1 per person. Along with that, most states do not have adequate resources to provide counseling or treatment services for problem gamblers.

According to the American Gaming Association, legal sportsbooks across the country reported a handle of $93.2 billion in 2022. And in 2023, with Ohio, Massachusetts and Kentucky launched wagering on sports, including mobile sports betting apps, the handle is expected to surpass $100 billion after states report their yearly totals.

Based on the 2022 handle, the federal excise tax generated $233 million. If the GRIT Act were already in place, that would have allowed $116.5 million to be spent to treat gambling addiction, which impacts about 7 million Americans.

Salinas noted the federal government does not dedicate funding for problem gambling behaviors as it does for drug and alcohol abuse. This bill would address that without raising taxes.

“Our legislation will deliver much-needed resources to states and nonprofits, promoting new research and ensuring more people can get into treatment and recovery,” she said. “This is a commonsense solution, and I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting it.”

Advocates Line Up To Support Responsible Gambling Bill

Salinas’ and Blumenthal’s bill has the support of the National Council on Problem Gambling as well as the chapters in their respective states.

“Gambling-related harm doesn’t recognize borders between cities and states,” said Diana Goode, the executive director for the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling. “That is why this federal initiative to provide much-needed funding for prevention, treatment, and research is so vital.”

Research conducted by the NCPG found that the potential for people to develop gambling addiction or other problematic behaviors rose by 30% from 2018 – the year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned PASPA and allowed states to legalize and regulate sports betting – to 2021.

Costs associated with gambling addiction go far beyond a person’s losses. The societal cost of problem gambling is about $7 billion, which would include criminal justice costs, health care expenses, job losses and bankruptcy filings.

“This landmark legislation sets the stage to significantly bolster gambling addiction prevention, research, and treatment resources and make a positive lasting impact on individuals and communities nationwide,” NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte said in a statement.

If you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, call 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537), send a text message to 800GAM (800426) or go online to 1800gamberchat.org. Help for those needing responsible gambling guidance is available around the clock, 365 days a year.

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Steve Bittenbender


Steve is an accomplished, award-winning communicator with over 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations/public affairs, marketing, and business development. He currently covers a diverse set of beats for several publications focusing on legislation, litigation, government regulation, and oversight. This includes commercial and tribal gaming, commercial fishing, and state and local government reporting.

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