Washington, D.C. council members are moving the District one step closer to eliminating funding for problem gambling.
Sports Handle obtained a draft of the D.C. Council’s Committee on Health FY 2024 budget report, and the report does not alter Mayor Muriel Bowser’s previous budget proposal. The proposed budget removes the $200,000 annual allocation to the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) for preventing, treating, and researching gambling addiction.
I voted against sports betting for just this reason. Politicians are lured by being able to dedicate the revenue to specific projects. That doesn't address the negative impact of legalized gambling. And now w/this proposal we also lose any benefits of the directed revenue. https://t.co/h8uNur27iw
— Brianne K. Nadeau (@BrianneKNadeau) March 23, 2023
Oddly, the Department of Behavioral Health hadn’t used previous funding generated by sports betting revenue to benefit responsible gambling measures in D.C. The DBH told the D.C. Council that it wouldn’t need the funding in FY 2024, suggesting its current resources are sufficient to help problem gamblers.
“The Department of Behavioral Health can support treatment for gambling disorders through our existing mental health services and resources,” DBH representatives wrote to the D.C. Council. “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 (CBT), group therapy, and family therapy, are available and can be tailored to fit individual needs.”
Some responsible gambling experts have pushed back, arguing that D.C. should have gambling counselors on the government payroll.
When KY legalized sports betting they finally funded problem gambling services
This meant there were now only 8 states failing to fund PG
However the DC Council Committee on Health’s Draft report seeks to make that # 9 again
I urge the Council Chairman to restore this funding
— Brianne Doura Schawohl (@BrianneDoura) April 25, 2023
More needs to be done, but …
The D.C. Council’s Committee on Health is worried with the DBH’s current plan to help problem gamblers.
The committee shared specific concerns that in FY 2022, the DBH released a solicitation for a contractor to develop and implement a prevention, treatment, and recovery program for problem gamblers, but the DBH never selected a contractor to perform those duties and funding went unused.
Responsible gambling experts believe there’s a need for funding in D.C., despite the looming budget change. The National Council on Problem Gambling said in 2022 it received 4,892 calls from the 202 area code to its helpline, a 35% increase from 2021. The committee’s report “urges” the DBH to partner with an organization like NCPG to develop clear protocols to help problem gamblers in D.C.
“The DBH has indicated that they can support treatment for gambling disorders through existing mental health services and resources, but the committee recommends that the DBH identify providers with a strong track record of supporting individuals with gambling disorders,” the committee report said.
Clearly, the D.C. Council Committee on Health believes there’s work to be done in Washington, D.C., as it relates to responsible gambling. Even with concern, the committee report didn’t go as far as recommending the reintroduction of the $200,000 annual funding for the DBH.
A policy analyst for Christina Henderson, the Committee on Health chair, suggested the decision was challenging and the committee plans to keep tabs on the DBH’s future problem gambling measures.
“This was a tough budget, and we were not able to identify $200k to restore the funding,” the analyst told Sports Handle. “We will stay in touch with the agency about their plans to increase access to problem gambling treatment and resources.”
Is this a done deal?
While not official, the removal of problem gambling funding seems likely. There are, however, a couple possible paths for funding to stay.
It’s possible that D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson could restore the funding before releasing his final budget that compiles information from the committee reports. That doesn’t seem likely with the Committee on Health not requesting a change to the proposed budget.
Additionally, a council member could propose adding the funding back through an amendment during a reading and vote on the budget. This path also seems unlikely, though.
The D.C. Council is expected to have a budget work session Wednesday.