GRIT Act Proposes Dedicated Federal Funding for Gambling Harm Prevention, Treatment, and Research

New legislation introduced last week, the Gambling Addiction, Recovery, Investment, and Treatment (GRIT) Act, earmarks funding for the treatment, prevention, and study of gambling addiction in the United States. If passed, the bill, backed by House Representative Andrea Salinas (OR) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), will establish dedicated federal funding for gambling addiction for the first time.

Rep. Salinas highlighted the existing funding gap in a media release announcing the bill’s introduction.

Gambling addictions are hurting countless families, children, and communities in Oregon and across America. Yet unlike alcohol and drug addictions, there are currently no federal funds devoted solely to helping stop problem gambling.

Our legislation will deliver much-needed resources to states and nonprofits, promoting new research and ensuring more people can get into treatment and recovery. This is a commonsense solution and I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting it.

GRIT Offers Support to State Problem Gambling Efforts

According to research from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), nearly seven million Americans experience gambling addiction. Additionally, the council estimates the annual social cost of problem gambling in the US at $7 billion.

At the same time, many of the state agencies and non-profits that study and treat gambling addiction are underfunded, lawmakers explained in the release.

The GRIT Act’s designated funds, they said, will offset the shortfall.

Specifically, the GRIT Act:

  • Sets aside 50% of revenue from the federal sports betting excise tax for gambling addiction treatment and research
    • 75% will go to states for gambling addiction prevention and treatment. The existing Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program will deliver the funds
    • The remaining 25% will fund grants for gambling addiction research as awarded through the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
  • Authorizes funding over 10 years but requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress on effectiveness within the first three
  • Provides vital support to state health agencies and nonprofits
  • Allows investment in best practices and comprehensive research

Importantly, noted the release, the GRIT Act does not raise taxes or add bureaucracy.

Instead, the legislation draws from the existing federal sports betting excise tax revenue and uses existing HHS programs and procedures.

In the announcement, Sen. Blumenthal said the Act is more necessary now than ever.

The growing legalization of sports and online betting, paired with the ability to place bets from your phone whenever you want have created a perfect storm for gambling addiction.

Dedicated federal resources to tackle problem gambling head-on will provide much-needed support, resources, and treatment for those suffering from gambling addiction. As the number of Americans who are suffering from gambling addiction surges, legislation like the GRIT Act is needed now more than ever.

Problem Gambling Advocates Back Legislation

In addition to the bill’s sponsors, the NCPG, Oregon’s Council on Problem Gambling (OCPG), and Connecticut’s Problem Gambling Council (CCPG) back the Act.

NCPG’s executive director, Keith Whyte, shared his gratitude for the bill’s introduction in a statement issued by NCPG.

The introduction of the GRIT Act is a testament to our shared commitment to mitigating gambling-related harm and addressing the challenges of gambling addiction. This landmark legislation sets the stage to significantly bolster gambling addiction prevention, research, and treatment resources and make a positive lasting impact on individuals and communities nationwide.

Gina Parziale, executive director of OCPG, echoed Whyte’s sentiments in the official release.

As a coalition of stakeholders from the gaming industry, we are grateful to Congresswoman Salinas for introducing this legislation to benefit Oregonians and all Americans. State health agencies and nonprofits should not have to address gambling problems on our own. As the Federal Government accepts gambling as a source of income, it has a duty-of-care to its citizens to take measures to minimize gambling related harm.

Gambling harm doesn’t care about borders, added CCPG’s executive director, Diana Goode.

Gambling related harm doesn’t recognize borders between cities and states. That is why this federal initiative to provide much needed funding for prevention, treatment, and research is so vital. In Connecticut we are very fortunate to have a robust set of programs aimed at helping those impacted by problem gambling and their families. This legislation will allow other states to be able to create similar programs to benefit their citizens.

GRIT Support Far From Universal

However, support for the GRIT Act is far from unanimous.

Notably, the American Gaming Association (AGA) has argued that taxing handle rather than revenue forces operators to offer worse odds. This, they say, makes it harder to compete with the black market. Instead, the organization wants to undo the excise tax altogether.

Chris Clyke, AGA’s senior vice president of government relations, confirmed the association will formally oppose the legislation in a statement shared with Bonus.

Congress enacted the federal sports betting excise tax in the 1950s as a tool to prosecute illegal gambling operations. Today, this antiquated policy puts the nascent legal market at a competitive disadvantage against offshore illegal operators, who do not pay any taxes and prey on vulnerable customers.

The AGA opposes the GRIT Act and will continue to educate Congress about why enacting bipartisan legislation to repeal the excise tax on legal sports betting operators is necessary to ensure we can effectively migrate Americans into the protections of the regulated market.

We look forward to working with Senator Blumenthal, Representative Salinas and other stakeholders to combat illegal gambling and address problem gambling in ways that do not further enshrine bad tax policy and give criminals a leg up.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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