Federal lawmakers announce bill to study and treat problem gambling

Problem Gambling Bill
Image: Shutterstuck / Stephanie Kenner

A landmark piece of federal legislation has been introduced aimed at treating and studying gambling addiction.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas have introduced the Gambling Addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment Act — a bill that would make history as the first piece of legislation to create a federal funding stream to address problem gambling.

“Gambling addictions are hurting countless families, children, and communities in Oregon and across America. Yet unlike alcohol and drug addictions, there are currently no federal funds devoted solely to helping stop problem gambling,” said Salinas. “Our legislation will deliver much-needed resources to states and nonprofits, promoting new research and ensuring more people can get into treatment and recovery.”

The GRIT Act has been introduced as nearly 7 million Americans deal with gambling addiction in some capacity. The influx of gambling issues has resulted in $7 billion in annual social costs.

NCPG and other RG groups support the measure

The proposed bill will curtail problem gambling with funding derived from 50% of federal sports excise tax revenue. The proceeds will also support the existing Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program and fund grants for the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

There are numerous critics of the 0.25% federal tax on handle and some lawmakers, like Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, have sought to repeal it. One of the criticisms of the tax is that currently is not allocated to any specific cause, so the funding would not result in lost revenue for any specific program.

The GRIT Act, which calls for an effectiveness report from Congress, has been backed by the National Council on Problem Gambling. The proposed bill has also garnered support from the Oregon Council on Problem Gambling and the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

“The GRIT Act will help address the critical and often overlooked issue of gambling addiction, and I am grateful for the leadership of Senator Blumenthal and Representative Salinas in introducing the bill,” said NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte. “The investment into gambling addiction research, prevention, and treatment is a necessary step to minimize gambling-related harm nationwide and reduce its impact on countless American families.”

Lawmaker takes stance on problem gambling

Blumenthal has previously made efforts to address problem gambling across the country.

In 2022, the lawmaker sent an open letter to Caesars Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg regarding the presence of Caesars on college campuses. In the letter, Blumenthal called for Caesars to terminate its partnerships with college athletic departments. Caesars had previously secured deals with LSU and Michigan State. Last year, LSU and MSU both severed ties with Caesars.

Blumenthal has also directly reached out to academic institutions. In March 2023, the Democrat Senator wrote letters to 66 colleges on the rise of sports betting on campuses. Blumenthal warned leaders of those institutions of the potential harm of gambling addictions on students.

He also requested that institutions never commit to partnerships with gambling companies.