Center on Problem Gambling

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Keith S. Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling issued the following statement to the United States House of Representatives on October 25, 2011.

Internet Gaming: Is There a Safe Bet?

Dear Chairwoman Bono Mack, Ranking Member Butterfield and Members of the Committee:

Gambling has benefits but also has well documented negative consequences. And internet gambling is no exception. The most ethical and cost-effective response to problem gambling issues raised by internet gambling—regardless of legality—is a comprehensive public health approach. Problem gambling, like other diseases of addiction, will likely never be eliminated, but we can and must make better efforts to mitigate the damage. It is inconceivable that internet gambling would be legalized without dedicating a portion of revenue to reduce the social costs of gambling addiction. Unfortunately, none of the internet gambling bills introduced to date currently contain any funding for such programs.

Over the past 30 years, and particularly in the last decade, the availability and acceptability of gambling has greatly increased in our society. Consider that today:

  • 48 states and a majority of Native American tribal governments have legalized gambling;
  • 75% of adults gambled at least once in the past year, 15% at least once in the past week;
  • $95 billion in legal gaming revenue was generated by casinos, tracks and state lotteries last year alone, which does not include illegal sports gambling and card playing;
  • $6 billion per year in Federal revenue comes from the special withholding tax on individual gambling winnings, none of which is dedicated to reduce corresponding social costs (unlike the taxes on alcohol and tobacco);
  • 6-8 million adults and 500,000 teens meet criteria for gambling addiction, approximately the same number who abuse prescription drugs; and
  • Estimates of the annual social cost of gambling-related addiction, bankruptcy and crime approach $7 billion.

Problem gambling is therefore an important national public health concern. Gambling addiction is characterized by increasing preoccupation with and loss of control over gambling, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop gambling, and/or continued gambling despite serious negative consequences.

For the complete statement, see NCPG Statement on Internet Gambling CMT Hearing October 2011 (PDF).