Defense Bill Targets On-Base Slots

An amendment submitted to a must-pass federal defense authorization bill would ban slot machines on military bases, on the basis they could cause gambling problems.

Defense Bill Targets On-Base Slots

A U.S. congressman has submitted an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a must-pass piece of legislation, that would ban slot machines on military bases.

Revenue from the on-base slots fund other recreational activities for all branches of military service. However, Rep. Paul Tonko of New York has said many of his constituents worry the machines may lead to gambling addiction.

Tonko’s amendment is one of more than 1,300 proposed amendments that lawmakers have filed so far in hopes of getting a vote when the NDAA is debated on the House floor this week. Typically, just a few hundred amendments are granted votes, and it’s unclear what proposals the gatekeeper for floor votes, the House Rules Committee, will allow to move forward this year.

“I’ve been leading the charge in Congress to address the rise in problem gambling, and I’m hopeful my NDAA provision would lessen the risk of our service members developing a gambling addiction,” Tonko said in a statement to “Our brave servicemen and women sacrifice everything to protect our nation and its freedoms. We must do all we can to support them by confronting problem gambling head on and ensuring this known addictive product is treated with the seriousness and precaution that we do with other addictions.”

According to, slot machines on military bases within the U.S. have been banned since 1951, and the Army and Air Force started removing them from overseas bases in the 1970s as well, but they were brought back less than a decade later with the intention of keeping service members from getting into trouble off-base.

As of 2017, the military operated more than 3,000 slot machines on overseas bases in 12 countries, with the majority in Japan, South Korea and Germany, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from that year.

Most are managed by the Army, including those on Navy and Marine Corps bases, and are generally inside other recreational areas such as bowling alleys and officers’ and enlisted personnel clubs.

The slot machines bring in annual revenue of more than $100 million on average, according to the GAO report. The money is a “major component” of funding for other recreational activities on military bases such as golf courses and youth centers, the Pentagon said in a 2001 report.