June 26, 2017

Senator Elizabeth Warren Introduces Bill to Prevent and Treat Gambling Disorder Among Servicemembers

Factsheet (PDF)
Bill Text (PDF)

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren today introduced The Preventing and Treating Gambling Disorder in the Military Act of 2017. The legislation would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to screen servicemembers for gambling disorder in both the Annual Periodic Health Assessment and the Health Related Behavior Surveys.

This legislation would implement recommendations from a 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the product of a study initially proposed by Senator Warren in 2015. Adopted as an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the study gathered information about gaming facilities on military installations and examined whether additional training and resources were needed to treat problem gambling. The GAO found that despite having over 3,000 slot machines on military installations across the world, DOD does not systematically screen military personnel for gambling disorder.

"The recent GAO report gives us the information we need to ensure servicemembers get the right kind of prevention, treatment, and financial counseling for gambling addiction," Senator Warren said. "This bill will take steps to implement GAO's recommendations and help advance the military's efforts to support servicemembers dealing with gambling addiction -- our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less."

Gambling disorder is a public health concern similar to other substance-use disorders that can ultimately lead to financial and legal problems. Additionally, gambling disorder is strongly associated with increased incidence of suicide attempts, substance use disorders, and other behavioral health conditions. Due to the stigmas associated with the disorder, less than ten percent of those with gambling problems seek help. According to the DOD, only about 120 military personnel were diagnosed with gambling disorder or seen for problem gambling between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, but the National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that nearly 56,000 active duty servicemembers meet the criteria for gambling disorder.