Casino Industry Urges Congress to Include Problem Gambling Support in Health Care Overhaul

Posted on: March 8, 2017, 07:16h. 

Last updated on: March 8, 2017, 10:29h.

The casino industry wants members of Congress to protect problem gambling services for players under proposed changes to the US health care system.

casino industry health care problem gambling
Reforming the Affordable Care Act will be no easy task for House Speaker Paul Ryan and Congress, but whatever comes of it, the casino industry wants to make sure that those with gambling issues can get the health care coverage they seek. (Image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives unveiled an overhaul of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), informally known as Obamacare.

In a joint letter from casino groups written to leaders of the House and Senate, the reps explained, “Gambling disorders are recognized under the ACA’s essential health benefits. We believe this recognition, which did not exist prior to the passage of ACA, is critical . . . to ensure necessary resources and treatment facilities are available.”

The letter comes from the National Council on Problem Gambling, the American Gaming Association, the National Indian Gaming Association, and the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers.

The recipients include House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California), as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York). Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has also received a copy.

What’s at Stake?

Under former President Barack Obama’s marquee namesake legislation, problem gambling is included as a mental health disorder. The plan mandated that insurance companies provide treatment for Americans in need.

The advocacy groups say their commitment to safeguarding against compulsive gambling has been effective. They point to the fact that while casinos have expanded dramatically across the US over the last two decades, problem gambling prevalence has remained at about one percent.

Yet the National Survey of Problem Gamblers says that while substance abuse disorders are only 3.6 times more common than problem gambling, the former is funded 281 times more ($17 billion to $60.6 million).

Recently the General Accountability Office recommended to the military that the branches begin screening for potential gambling problems among its armed forces community. The office says its research has found that veterans, particularly those who served in combat, are more prone to becoming hooked on gambling than the general population.

Casinos Lead Treatment

Opponents to casinos often claim gambling companies prey on the vulnerable.

Connecticut is currently in a heated discussion deciding whether to move forward with a third tribal casino to compete with MGM’s $950 million resort just across the Massachusetts border in Springfield. The main opposition group, “No More Casinos in Connecticut,” is telling citizens that the casino business targets people with problem gambling tendencies.

Determining if that’s true often depends on the study you read, and which groups are funding the research.

But to give credit where credit’s due, MGM is rolling out problem gaming centers in all of its North American casinos in the coming years. The Nevada-based company first came across GameSense in Massachusetts, where the state mandates that casinos house problem gambling kiosks for patrons.

GameSense is a system developed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. The centers educate gamblers on making informed decisions and forming good habits, including explaining the difference between chance and skill-based games, the odds of winning, and tips for playing responsibly.