State lawmakers end their 2021 sessions with an eye on expanding gaming options to generate new revenue for state coffers. This rapid expansion across the country in the three years since the Supreme Court gave the green light to states on sports betting has further strained the patchwork of services for people with gambling disorders. Resources and the treatments available to people with hidden gambling addictions are not keeping pace with the breakneck speed at which state lawmakers are embracing legalized gambling.
Since 2018, when the Supreme Court ruled in Murphy v. NCAA states have the power to authorize sports betting, 30 states plus DC have opened the betting windows for betting on games. Sports betting laws were passed in states much faster than the lotteries that states now sponsor. These lotteries have proceeded slowly over the decades and have not even been adopted in five states.
In addition to allowing sports betting, states make betting online or with mobile apps legal. But the rules for these new ways of betting differ from state to state. And in many cases, state lawmakers rely primarily on the promises of technology and carriers to protect consumers and prevent problem gambling.
Funding for problem gambling treatment and prevention services is not included in many proposals to expand gambling despite calls from the National Problem Gambling Council for dedicated funds based on gambling revenues.
An example can be found in Florida, where lawmakers approved a pact that the government. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisRick Scott Introduces Bill To Ban “Vaccine Passports” For Domestic Flights DeSantis Signs Budget For Florida That Includes K Checks For Teachers And First Responders Crist Raises $ 0.35 Million In First Month campaign for Governor of Florida MORE negotiated with the Seminole tribe to expand betting, including online sports betting across the state. The pact, which is expected to generate billions of dollars in sports betting and hundreds of millions for the state, made no provision for any increase in the amount of funds from gambling revenues for problem gambling services.
The differing responses of states to the expansion of gambling deserve attention at the national level. Gambling disorder is an addiction like drug addiction. As states like Florida rush to develop gambling, it’s especially timely to note this emerging danger as lawmakers assess the costs and revenues of new legalized gambling options.
This will ultimately result in a race to the bottom, leaving families burdened with gambling addiction, bankruptcy and crime, mental health crises and other financial burdens. The National Problem Gambling Council and states are already seeing an increase in calls to gambling hotlines as the country emerges from pandemic isolation. Now is the time to raise awareness of this hidden addiction and ensure that comprehensive problem gambling prevention, treatment and research programs are available in all states, especially those that have legalized sports betting.
Keith Whyte is the Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, which is the national, non-profit advocate for programs and services to help problem gamblers and their families.