Two Virginia legislators, Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) and Del. Paul Krizek (D-Mount Vernon), are concerned that expanded wagering in Virginia will lead to an increase in problem gambling, and they’re hoping to tackle the issue head-on in 2023.
Krizek and Reeves introduced legislation in December to create a problem gambling committee within the state’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. The legislation would enable and encourage treatment providers and sportsbook operators to share responsible gambling information and best practices to provide the highest level of support to Virginians.
“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.
As more forms of legal gambling have become available, a Virginia problem gambling hotline has reported a sustained increase in calls from people seeking assistance. The hotline… has seen a 143% increase in intake calls over the last three yearshttps://t.co/QxYHQBBk57
— Gonzi (@_Gonzi) January 5, 2023
The press release cites a 2021 Virginia Youth Survey, which says that just over 20% of high school students gambled or placed a bet over the last year, and 64% of people between the ages of 18 and 25 have gambled in the last month.
“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,” Krizek said.
Online sports betting went live in Virginia in January 2021, and there are over a dozen mobile sportsbook platforms available in the commonwealth. Virginia has also introduced casino gaming in recent years, and Rivers Casino in Portsmouth’s grand opening on Jan. 15 represents the first permanent casino opening in the state. Hard Rock Bristol is currently operating out of a temporary location.
Legislature meets Wednesday
Virginia’s 2023 legislative session begins on Wednesday and lasts through Feb. 25. It’s a short session, and bills from 2023 don’t carry over into 2024. This creates a time crunch for legislators.
Reeves and Krizek are hopeful other legislators will be on board with their efforts to expand opportunities for collaboration across the state. They each believe problem gambling is a critical issue, and the duo had success during the 2022 legislative session raising the age of customers who are allowed to wager through historical horse racing machines from 18 to 21.
“As Virginia moves forward with the expansion of gaming, it’s important that we understand the ills that come with it,” Reeves said in the press release. “We must focus our attention on Virginians who struggle with gambling addiction. Delegate Krizek and myself are excited to announce our bipartisan effort to ensure that our Commonwealth’s gaming regulations properly reflect the much-needed funds for problem identification, gambling addiction education, and treatment.”