In December, a pair of Virginia legislators, Sen. Bryce Reeves and Del. Paul Krizek, filed a bill to create a problem gambling committee designed to foster collaboration between key stakeholders. The bill gained widespread support during the legislative session, and on Saturday, the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee will officially come into existence.
Nine members will serve on the committee, including chairperson Anne Rogers. She serves as the problem gambling prevention coordinator for Virginia’s Office of Behavioral Health Wellness, which operates within the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services.
The other members of the committee are:
- Dr. Carolyn Hawley, executive director of the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling
- Kelly Gee, executive director of the Virginia Lottery
- Michael Menefee, program manager of charitable and regulatory programs with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
- David Lermond, executive secretary of the Virginia Racing Commission
- Jim Bebeau, who will represent the Virginia Community Service Board on the committee
- Colleen Carraccio, director of compliance at Portsmouth Rivers Casino
- Jamie Sanko, vice president of administration at Colonial Downs
- Julie Hynes, senior manager of responsible gambling at DraftKings
Rogers is excited about the potential for collaboration among the nine members of the committee, as it’s not often that this many key stakeholders meet to discuss best practices.
“Sometimes it can be hard to get all the players in the room,” Rogers said.
Educational measures a focus
Rogers expects the committee to take a close look at the best ways to educate Virginians about problem gambling. She often finds people in the commonwealth aren’t aware of the issues gambling can create for certain bettors.
“What we found when we did some assessments is a lot of people don’t realize that gambling can be a problem for some folks,” Rogers said. “They think that’s not a real thing.”
She’s seen gambling education increase in Virginia since mobile sports betting went live in 2021 and as casinos have opened across the state in recent years, but there’s still work to be done.
The committee also plans to focus on educating underage people in Virginia about responsible gambling and the potential pitfalls of betting.
“As more gaming opportunities are legalized and expanded in Virginia, we must prioritize protecting Virginians from gambling addiction, especially young people,” Krizek said in a press release. “We know from prevention research that people who begin gambling in their teens are at a higher risk of developing a problem with gambling and that one of the fastest growing groups to have gambling problems are young adults.”
First meeting in July
The committee’s first meeting, which will occur in person in Richmond, is scheduled for July 18.
“This first meeting is really going to be about getting to know each other,” Rogers said. “Learning a little bit about what each one has in place, coming up with some rules for the committee, how often we want to meet — that kind of thing.”
In subsequent meetings, the group will plot a course for tackling problem gambling in the state, considering which cutting-edge resources can be put into action to educate and treat key demographics and the public in general.
“We want to make sure that what we do enhances what others may be doing,” Rogers said.