Senators Warren, Daines Reintroduce Bicameral, Bipartisan Bill to Address Gambling Addiction Among Servicemembers
According to Estimates, Nearly 56,000 Servicemembers Meet Criteria for Gambling Disorder
Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) reintroduced the bipartisan Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2019 in the Senate. This legislation would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to develop policies and programs to prevent and treat gambling problems among our servicemembers, in coordination with the Department's other behavioral health efforts. It would also require the Department to update its regulations, instructions, and guidance related to behavior health to explicitly include gambling disorder. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 56,000 active duty servicemembers may meet the criteria for gambling disorder. U.S. Representative Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced identical companion legislation in the House.
"It's our duty as Americans to honor the sacrifices servicemembers 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."
"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 the National Council on Problem Gambling. "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 $100 million 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."
Gambling disorder is a public health concern similar to other behavioral health disorders that can ultimately lead to financial and legal problems. This addiction 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. The prevalence of gambling disorder in the military is a serious health and financial issue, and also poses a national security concern, harming individual readiness and human performance and increasing affected servicemembers' susceptibility to blackmail and other malign influence.
A 2017 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), requested by Senator Warren, 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. In its report, the GAO recommended that the DOD incorporate questions on gambling disorder in its annual health assessments and DOD-wide surveys in order to better understand the prevalence of gambling disorder in the military and improve the military's ability to offer treatment. It also recommended that the DOD update its regulations, instructions, and other guidance related to behavioral health to explicitly include gambling disorder.
In 2018, Senators Warren and Daines introduced the Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act of 2018, which required DOD to include gambling disorder screening questions in health assessments for members of the Armed Forces and in other survey and research efforts. In 2018, language based on this provision of the GAP Act was signed into law as part of the FY2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
The updated Gambling Addiction Prevention Act of 2019 would require the 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 provision of educational materials and promotion of responsible 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.
The legislation is endorsed by the National Council on Problem Gambling, Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators, Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, and Montana Council on Problem Gambling.
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