The Washington D.C. Council debated the FY 2024 budget on Tuesday, and while multiple council members had concerns about where funds were being distributed, the proposed removal of problem gambling funding was not a discussion point.
At the end of the afternoon, the D.C. Council issued an initial vote of approval for the budget, which removes $200,000 in annual funding for problem gambling generated by sports betting revenue. A second, final vote on the budget is expected on May 30, and it’s unlikely that the funding will be reinstated.
“We may have lost this round, but the fight is not over,” said Brianne Doura-Schawohl, problem gambling policy advocate and CEO of Doura-Schawohl Consulting. “Advocates will come together to push the District to not only reinstate, but spend these desperately needed funds.”
Department of Behavioral Health not worried
Strangely, the Department of Behavioral Health hadn’t used previous problem gambling funding. In FY 2022, the DBH released a solicitation for a contract to develop and implement problem and responsible gambling measures, but it never selected a contractor.
Despite vocal concerns from entities like the National Council on Problem Gambling, DBH representatives recently wrote to the D.C. Council, saying they feel like the DBH has the necessary resources to help problem gamblers in the District.
“The Department of Behavioral Health can support treatment for gambling disorders through our existing mental health services and resources,” DBH representatives said. “DBH has certified about 50 community-based providers located across D.C. to deliver mental health services. Several types of therapy used to treat gambling disorders — including cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and family therapy — are available and can be tailored to fit individual needs.”
The NCPG takes no comfort in the DBH’s messaging, however, and the organization’s official Twitter account shared its displeasure with Tuesday’s vote.
“NCPG strongly condemns Mayor [Muriel] Bowser for proposing and [the D.C. Council] for approving the FY 2024 budget which strips all funding for problem gambling prevention, treatment and research,” the tweet read.