Virginia lawmakers are pushing to create a new state committee on gaming addiction to tackle a feared rise in problem gambling, as wagering becomes more easily available and state and local governments chase extra tax dollars from lottery, casinos, sports betting, horse racing and slots parlors.
A bipartisan pair of state lawmakers have introduced legislation to create a new committee on problem gambling. In a joint news release announcing the bill co-filed with Delegate Paul Krizek (D-Fairfax), Senator Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) said: “As Virginia moves forward with the expansion of gaming, it’s important that we understand the ills that come with it.”
As more forms of legal gambling have become available, a Virginia problem gambling hotline has seen a sustained increase in calls from people seeking assistance, reports Virginia Mercury. The hotline, run by the nonprofit Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, has seen a 143% increase in intake calls over the last three years, with 816 calls last year from Virginia residents seeking help with gambling issues.
The new legislation calls for the establishment of a Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee by the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, which already deals with addiction and mental health issues. Its mission would be to “enable collaboration” between treatment providers and the gambling industry “on efforts to reduce the negative effects of problem gambling.”
If approved, the new committee would be chaired by the state’s problem gambling prevention coordinator, a position recently created within DBHDS, and feature representatives from all state agencies that regulate gambling. The gambling industry would have seats on the panel as well; and there would also be a spot for someone from the problem gambling council.
In the lawmakers’ news release announcing the initiative, Krizek pointed to 2021 survey data showing that more than 21% of Virginia high schoolers said they had gambled or placed a bet in the past year, further reports the cited source.
“We know from prevention research that people who begin gambling in their teens are at a higher risk of developing a problem with gambling,” Krizek said. “And that one of the fastest growing groups to have gambling problems are young adults.”