At a time when lawmakers and advocates around the country are wanting to do more to help problem gambling issues as legal sports betting rises, is D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser looking to do less?
According to a report on Thursday from NPR’s Martin Austermuhle, Bowser slid a provision into D.C.’s next budget that will cut the $200,000 that the district receives from taxing sports betting operators, which is meant to go to a prevention and treatment fund for problem gambling.
Small D.C. budget find: @MayorBowser wants to repeal the provisions of law (below) that require revenues from sports betting to be evenly divided between early education programs and violence interruption efforts, and also sets aside $200k a year to deal with problem gambling. pic.twitter.com/DTydAUovkI— Martin Austermuhle (@maustermuhle) March 23, 2023
Since sports betting became legal in D.C. in 2018, revenues are supposed to be split between early education and violence interruption programs, with the first $200,000 going to problem gambling support.
Austermuhle also reported that not much of the money allocated from taxing operators has actually been set aside for its intended use, which could be a reason why Bowser is looking to get rid of the provision. The mayor’s office has currently not released any statements concerning the matter or provided any motive.
Less is not more
Just last month, Brianne Doura-Schawohl of the National Council on Problem Gambling challenged D.C.’s health council in an open letter to spend the allotted money to help problem gamblers.
“I am here today to speak on behalf of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), the sole national advocate for problem gamblers and their loved ones, to ask you to use your oversight powers to ensure that DBH is abiding by the District’s sports betting legislation to spend the money it has received to create programs that help those with a gambling problem,” Doura-Schawohl wrote.
“NCPG’s mission is to lead state and national stakeholders in the development of comprehensive policy and programs for all those affected by problem gambling. This job is as important in the District as it is across the nation; there are an estimated 7 million Americans living with gambling addiction, and statistically, around 15,000 reside in the District. Our vision is to improve health and wellness by reducing the personal, social, and economic costs of problem gambling.”
Doura-Schawohl asked for at least $1 million to be allocated for problem gambling and include “youth gambling prevention efforts, counselor training, outpatient treatment, public awareness campaigns, research on the rates of problems, and services to support people in recovery.”
Going against the grain
Sports betting in D.C. saw a handle of $62.6 million in 2022 with a revenue of $7.8 million. While it is a district that doesn’t have the population of a state, there is still a lot of money being allocated toward gambling issues elsewhere.
Iowa spent over $15 million to treat and help prevent problem gambling in 2022. Louisiana also has more than $2.5 million allocated for addiction, and Delaware has been recognized as one of the most proactive states in attacking these issues.
New York Congressman Paul Tonko introduced the Betting on our Future Bill that would ban online and electronic advertising from retail books and online sports betting sites, as he believes that is leading to a surge in problem gambling.