Virginia is poised for a massive gambling expansion in the not so distant future and this is expected to have a significant impact on the state. One of the areas that experts are hoping lawmakers will delve deeper into as they continue with their plans to legalize various forms of betting is problem gambling. Needless to say, this is a very serious issue that requires a lot of attention considering the long-term effects it can have on both individuals, their families, friends and the society as a whole.
The Current Situation
As it stands, there have been studies into the state’s gambling activities and already there are signs of an underlying problem. According to the data from this research, at least 5 percent of adults are at risk of gambling-related harm – this includes both problem gambling and gambling addiction. The gambling-expansion bill has barely taken off and these numbers are already quite unsettling.
The main problem gambling resource in the state as of this writing is a telephone hotline that is administered by the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, a non-profit that is by the Virginia Lottery. Their operations have been pretty murky since they receive only $30,000 annually from the lottery which is certainly not enough to deal with present problem gambling issues let alone the ones that will come up once the expanded gambling industry goes live.
Between 2018 and 2019, the non-profit problem gambling resource provider revealed that they had received a 100 percent increase in the number of intake calls. This, as it turns out, coincided with the relaunch of Colonial Dawns and its gambling outlets.
The telephone hotline is usually available on every lottery ticket and also included in all printed material distributed by the lottery. But that will definitely not be enough.
One of the things that have been suggested is the increase in funding for the problem gambling resource providers. The funding that is available right now is not sustainable and the number of casualties continues to grow at an unusual rate. A study conducted in 2019 found that the most, if not all, of the present problem gambling efforts are incredibly insufficient.
“Virginia’s current problem gambling prevention and treatment efforts are minimal and need to be enhanced, even if gaming is not expanded,” reads a report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) report.
The committee has suggested that the best way of combating problem gambling would be to dedicate anywhere between $2 million and $6 million to the course. To help in monitoring and evaluation, they have also suggested the utilization of a third-party.
Lawmakers in Virginia have also acknowledged the potential problems and are reportedly working on ways of addressing those issues. Measures and regulations will have to be part of the laws if the state’s gambling plans are to stay on track.