You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
—Carl Gustav Jong
Washington D.C. passed legislation to allow sports betting in December 2018. One of the provisions of this legislation detailed the treatment of tax revenues received from sports betting within the district. Of any tax revenues received from sports betting, the law clearly states that the first $200,000 shall be directed to the Department of Behavioral Health to prevent, treat, and research gambling addiction.
This is an admirable commitment and the language of first and shall is pretty unequivocal. It is unfortunate that this money has never been provided. The gaming regulators in the district appear to find this type of thing of secondary importance.
The Gambling Helpline that is advertised in Washington D.C. is that of the National Council of Problem Gambling. When people in the district call this line, it is answered in Louisiana. The folks in Louisiana who answer these calls can offer callers an emailed packet, the time and locations of Gamblers Anonymous meetings in the district, and some online resources. This is far from the mark of providing a response that is available, affordable, accessible, and relevant.
Being unconcerned about problem gambling is not unique to our nation’s capital. There are presently nine jurisdictions with no provisions to address problem gambling, plus a number of additional jurisdictions that have legalized sports wagering without addressing the increased need for problem gambling resources. Oh, and March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and based on these statistics, it needs to be longer than a month (at least they chose one with 31 days).
Going back to Washington D.C., the calls to the gambling hotline have more than doubled in the last two years. One would think that folks at the American Gaming Association could leave their smoke-free offices and take an Uber the 4.4 miles to the offices of the people who regulate gaming in the district and explain the importance of such programs. That just may be a productive hour for the AGA, kind of like a clean-up-the-neighborhood effort. It could also give them a break from ranting about those irresponsible offshore operators.
Another interesting point is that the betting operators in Washington D.C. seem okay with this setup. I would guess they would lobby long and hard to secure a more favorable tax environment or other favorable market conditions in this jurisdiction, but they seem quite cool that their customers do not have the basics in harm reduction programs. While they talk the talk, they seem to ignore any effort at walking the walk. I guess it is not their problem.
In this latest experiment with gambling expansion in the United States, the culture that seems to be developing within the echo chamber of the industry is that it is much easier to create stories that suggest sports wagering is well thought-out and regulated than to actually go through the effort to demonstrate that it is well thought-out and regulated.
I again suggest that the main problem with the recent expansion of gaming is that it resembles a mad cash grab more than a system that has been the beneficiary of a well-planned effort with adult supervision. My guess is that down the road there will be a price to pay for this reality.