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The Comprehensive Problem Gambling Act

By: Joan Peppin, Friday June 19th 2009
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Problem gambling is an issue that everyone associated with gambling, including online gambling, is trying to address. Also it has become a major stumbling block in the legalization of online gambling. Two days ago Congressmen Jim Moran (D-VA), Lee Terry (R-NE) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced the Comprehensive Problem Gambling Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, which is being called H.R. 2906.

In a statement released the next day Moran explained why this bill was needed and what it would achieve. At the outset he acknowledged that most Americans do gamble in a responsible manner. Problem gambling affects only a small percentage of Americans, but in absolute terms that amounts to more than 6 million people. He added that as more and more state governments are turning to gambling to boost revenues the number of problem gamblers will show a marked increase. Moran pointed out that U.S. citizens have paid $5.3 billion as federal taxes on gambling income in 2006. He also pointed out that the social consequences of problem gambling are estimated to cost $7 billion annually. Despite these staggering figures, he said. "No federal agency has the responsibility of coordinating efforts to treat gambling addiction." H.R. 2906 aims to correct this.

H.R. 2906 will designate the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) as the nodal federal agency for problem gambling. It will thus integrate problem gambling services into the federal health care system and pave the way for allocation of federal resources for tackling problem gambling issues. To start with $14.2 million per year have been earmarked for this purpose for a period of five years. This funding would allow SAMHSA to carry out research in problem gambling, develop guidelines for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling, support a national public awareness campaign and provide assistance to local gambling addiction service providers.

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is supporting the bill. The NCPG was founded in 1972 to assist problem gamblers and their families. It has 35 affiliates across the country. The Executive Director of the NCPG applauded the introduction of the bill. He said, "Problem gambling is a serious public health issue that has been overlooked by the federal government for far too long. We know that it is both preventable and treatable, and this bill will help ensure that all Americans will have access to these services."

The NCPG has called upon ever Congressman to support this bill in a bipartisan manner. It has also asked those associated with gambling issues to urge their legislators to support the bill. The NCPG is facilitating this move for people to get in touch with their legislators. Those interested can contact their legislators through the NCPG web site and even use the template letter that they have drafted.

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