Two cross-party legislators in Virginia have united to introduce legislation to form a Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee.
Sen. Bryce Reeves and Del. Paul Krizek introduced a bill to form the committee which would aim to reduce the adverse effects of problem gambling.
Reporting to the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the proposed committee would seek collaboration between experts in the field of problem gambling to reduce the impact of problem gambling as expansion continues in the state.
Whilst legalized sports betting was introduced in Virginia in 2021, the state has begun to roll out brick-and-mortar casino gaming throughout 2022. In July, Hard Rock opened its temporary casino location in Bristol, just a few months before breaking ground on its permanent location set to open in 2024.
Meanwhile, there are four more casinos that could be opened under the state’s law; Cordish Companies recently unveiled proposals for a $1.4bn development in Petersburg.
All this is to say that there are increasing fears that increased exposure to gambling could lead to more Virginians becoming victims of problem gambling, to a devastating effect.
Unveiling the legislation to create the committee, Del Krizek, commented: “In just the last few years, we have considerably expanded gaming in the Commonwealth, with the recent opening of temporary casinos, sports betting, historical horse racing machines, online Lottery, and much more. As more gaming opportunities are legalized and expanded in Virginia, we must prioritize protecting Virginians from gambling addiction, especially young people.
“We know from prevention research that people who begin gambling in their teens are at a higher risk of developing a problem with gambling and that one of the fastest growing groups to have gambling problems are young adults.”
Under the proposals, the Committee would comprise gambling harm stakeholders and would be chaired by the Problem Gambling Prevention Coordinator at DBHDS.
The proposals cite research from the 2021 VA Youth Survey, which claims that 21% of high school students had placed abet within the prior 12 months, and that 64% of those aged 18-25 had gambled in the prior 30 days.
“As Virginia moves forward with the expansion of gaming, it’s important that we understand the ills that come with it,” said Senator Reeves. “We must focus our attention on Virginians who struggle with gambling addiction. Delegate Krizek and myself are excited to announce our bipartisan effort to ensure that our Commonwealth’s gaming regulations properly reflect the much-needed funds for problem identification, gambling addiction education, and treatment.”