According to Estimates, Nearly 56,000 Servicemembers Meet Criteria for Gambling Disorder
U.S. SENATE – United States Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) today introduced the bipartisan Gambling Addiction Prevention (GAP) Act. The legislation would require the Department of Defense (DOD) to begin tracking gambling disorder in its health assessments and instructs the DOD to develop policies and programs to prevent and treat gambling problems among our servicemembers. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, an estimated 56,000 active duty servicemembers may meet the criteria for gambling disorder.
“Countless service members and veterans suffer from gambling addiction,” said Daines. “Under this bipartisan bill, these men and women can get the help they need to get back on the right track.”
“Gambling addiction among our servicemembers and veterans is a serious problem and it’s time our military gave this issue the attention it deserves,” said Senator Warren. “I’m pleased to work with Senator Daines on a bill that ensures our servicemembers get the right kind of prevention and treatment for gambling disorder—the men and women who serve our country deserve nothing less.”
Gambling disorder is a public health concern similar to other substance use disorders that can ultimately lead to financial and legal problems. Additionally, gambling disorder is strongly associated with increased incidence of suicide attempts, substance use disorders, and other behavioral health conditions. Due to the stigmas associated with the disorder, less than ten percent of those with gambling problems seek help. The prevalence of gambling disorder in the military is a serious health and financial issue, and also poses a national security concern, harming individual readiness and human performance and increasing affected service members’ susceptibility to blackmail and other malign influence.
A 2017 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that despite having over 3,000 slot machines on military installations across the world, DOD does not systematically screen military personnel for gambling disorder. In its report, the GAO recommended that the DOD incorporate questions on gambling disorder in its annual health assessments and DOD-wide surveys in order to better understand the prevalence of gambling disorder in the military and improve the military’s ability to offer treatment.
The Gambling Addiction Prevention Act implements the GAO’s recommendations by requiring the DOD to include gambling disorder screening questions in health assessments for members of the armed forces and in other survey and research efforts. The bill also requires the DOD to develop policies and programs to prevent and treat gambling problems, in coordination with other behavioral health efforts. On military sites where gambling activities take place, such policies and programs would include provision of educational materials and promotion of responsible behavior.
The legislation is endorsed by the National Council on Problem Gambling, Association of Problem Gambling Administrators, National Center for Responsible Gaming, Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling, and Montana Council on Problem Gambling.