The National Council on Problem Gambling, the leading national organisation for people and their families who are affected by problem gambling and gambling addiction in the US, has reintroduced the bipartisan Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2019 by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Steve Daines (R-MT).
The GAP Act is complimented by companion legislation introduced in the House by Representative Susie Lee (D-NV).
“I applaud Senators Daines and Warren and Representative Lee for taking the lead on the GAP Act to address problem gambling in the military. NCPG believes there exists an ethical and economic obligation to protect our troops by preventing gambling addiction,” said Keith Whyte, Executive Director of NCPG. “Problem gambling is a critical issue that is far too often overlooked. Research reveals that problem gambling uniquely impacts the military. For example, an estimated 56,000 servicemembers meet the criteria for problem gambling, while military members lost $100m on 3,000 slot machines at overseas bases in 2018 alone. Clearly, the Department of Defense holds an even higher obligation to address problem gambling because of the windfall profits they make from gambling.”
“It’s our duty as Americans to honor the sacrifices service-members and veterans make for our country,” said Senator Warren. “Senator Daines and I are reintroducing our bipartisan legislation to make sure veterans struggling with gambling addiction can get the treatment they need.”
“Far too many service men and women suffer from gambling addictions,” said Senator Daines. “This bill protects our troops by requiring the Defense Department to confront this growing problem head on.”
“Our country must do more to help treat, prevent, and reduce gambling addiction among our servicemembers and veterans,” said Representative Susie Lee. “When it comes to addiction, our military is often the most vulnerable, and gambling is no exception. That’s exactly why I introduced the GAP Act to ensure that our men and women in uniform have the resources they deserve to treat and prevent addiction on military bases.”
NCPG believes the GAP Act is critical to protect the health and welfare of our service-members by preventing gambling addiction. Our research reveals that military personnel and their families are exposed to more than 3,000 slot machines on military bases located Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) where over $100 million is gambled away every year. Furthermore, military personnel are 2 to 3 times more likely to experience problem gambling. Yet, due to the stigmas associated with the disorder, less than 10% of those with gambling problems seek help.
NCPG hears directly from veterans & active duty personnel about their concerns regarding how gambling problems adversely affect military readiness, health, focus, and morale. The lack of protections against gambling addiction extend beyond active duty members: a 2019 study of veterans with gambling disorder discovered that they are twice as likely to attempt suicide as compared to veterans who do not have a gambling addiction, and 40% of veterans seeking problem gambling treatment report suicide attempts.
One soldier, sailor, airperson or Marine with a gambling problem destabilizes not only the individual, but also the whole unit, their family, and their community. The consequences of a gambling problem can be severe, including bankruptcy, homelessness and suicide. The GAP Act of 2019 finally presents the opportunity to protect military servicemembers from problem gambling.
The updated Gambling Addiction Prevention Act of 2019 would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to develop policies and programs to prevent and treat gambling problems, in coordination with the Department’s other behavioral health efforts. On military sites where gambling activities take place, such policies and programs would include providing educational materials and promoting responsible gambling behavior. It also requires the Department to update its regulations, instructions, and guidance to explicitly include gambling disorder within 180 days of the passage of the Act.
This legislation is endorsed by a number of organizations including National Council on Problem Gambling, Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, Montana Council on Problem Gambling, and Nevada Council on Problem Gambling.