NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Government Support for Addressing Gambling Disorders: Practice and Pitfalls

In this afternoon’s session on government support for addressing gambling disorders, attendees heard from representatives from Indiana, California and Nevada. While each state faces different challenges based on resources, and the geographic location and type of gaming facilities, there was unanimous consent among the panelists that perhaps the most significant challenge they face is a lack of properly trained and certified treatment providers.

Mike Smith, executive director of the Casino Association of Indiana, described how the state has recognized the clear need to build an infrastructure for treatment. According to Smith, this means both making sure there are treatment providers who have the proper training and certification, but also that these providers are located throughout the state so that individuals with gambling problems don’t have to travel a considerable distance to get help. Indiana also has used tax dollars collected from the state’s casinos to conduct research on disordered gambling, which is due out early next year. In addition, Smith mentioned that, due to the fact that Indiana’s casinos are located close to the state’s borders, the state is attempting to work with its neighboring states – Illinois and Kentucky – to find a way to help problem gamblers from these states who gamble in Indiana have access to the help they need.

Jodi Tyson, M.P.H., a social service program specialist in the Nevada Department of Health and Human Service’s Grants Management Unit, discussed Nevada’s Problem Gambling Revolving Account, which was established by state legislation in 2005. The Revolving Account, which is funded through a tax of approximately $2 on each slot machine in the state, is used to fund prevention, treatment, research and workforce development initiatives throughout the state. Tyson pointed out that treatment always was intended to be the primary focus of the Revolving Account’s funds, with 60 percent of the grant money distributed by the Revolving Account dedicated to treatment initiatives.

Alexandra Vuksich, commissioner of the California Gambling Control Commission, was the final panelist for the session. She explained how the complicated gambling landscape in California – which includes tribal gaming, horse-racing tracks, a lottery and card clubs – has led to unique challenges in addressing problem gambling issues. One example, said Vuksich, is tribal gaming compacts, which represent the state's only opportunity to negotiate regulatory matters with the tribes' sovreign governments. According to Vuksich, California's tribal gaming compacts, the first of which were signed in 1999, have gone from hardly mentioning problem gambling to having much more of a focus on the issue in more recent compacts. She also pointed to the economic challenges the state is facing; California is currently $11.2 billion in debt, which, she said, means the prospect for money coming out of the state’s general fund to support disordered gambling treatment is unlikely.

As a whole, the panel emphasized the fact that state support for addressing problem gambling is evolving. As the body of sound research on disordered gambling continues to grow, and more research is conducted at the state level, it continues to shape the way states address this issue.


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