Sen. Elizabeth Warren Introduces Gambling Disorder Bill to Help Military Service Members Dealing With Addiction

Posted on: July 10, 2019, 08:50h. 

Last updated on: July 10, 2019, 09:11h.

US Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is again introducing federal legislation to help active-duty military members who might be struggling with a gambling disorder.

Elizabeth Warren military gambling slots
Sen. Elizabeth Warren wants to assist active-duty military members who develop gambling disorders. (Image: Ben Bloker/S&S)

The Gambling Addiction Prevention Act of 2019 would require the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop programs to aid military members who are problem gamblers. It would also require the DoD to screen its troops for gambling disorders during annual health and behavioral assessments.

There are more than 3,000 slot machines at US military installations around the world, but the @DeptofDefense doesn’t systematically screen for gambling disorder. That’s dangerous for our servicemembers’ health & well-being, & our national security. But I’ve got a bill for that,” Warren tweeted.

The gambling disorder bill is being co-sponsored by US Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana).

Military Gambling

As shocking as it might seem, the DoD operates thousands of slot machines on overseas military bases. Under the Army Recreation Machine Program, the Defense Department operates slot machines on Army, Navy, and Marine Corps installations.

The US Government Accountability Office (GOA) concluded in a 2017 report that the Defense Department won $538.9 million between 2011 and 2014 from the gambling machines.

“It’s our duty as Americans to honor the sacrifices service members and veterans make for our country,” Warren said. “Senator Daines and I are reintroducing our bipartisan legislation to make sure veterans struggling with gambling addiction can get the treatment they need.”

Proponents of military slot machines say they provide military members an entertaining relief for the constant stress of being overseas. The GOA report found that 514 active military members, and 72 reserve service members, had been diagnosed with a gambling disorder – less than 0.03 percent of the total US military.

Warren’s bill would mandate the DoD add “gaming disorder” to its behavioral health regulations and also require military installations to raise awareness of the risks gambling poses to active-duty troops.

The senator argues those who become addicted to gambling raise national security concerns.

Tough Fight

Warren is running for the country’s highest office, though bettors at PredictIt have her trailing Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) and former VP Joe Biden for the 2020 Democratic ticket.

The Massachusetts senator has been leading a federal effort to allow the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in her state to gain authorization to build a $1 billion casino resort regardless of whether the US Department of the Interior (DOI) formally approves the project.

The statute passed the House, and currently sits with the Senate. President Donald Trump has urged GOP lawmakers to vote against the bill.

Republicans shouldn’t vote for HR 312, a special interest casino bill backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren. It is unfair and doesn’t treat Native Americans equally!” the president opined in a tweet.

The DOI said it erred in taking 321 acres of land into trust for the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. As a result, the Interior Department didn’t approve of the tribal resort.