DC Strips Budget Of Problem Gambling Funds From Sports Betting

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DC sports betting

The District of Columbia passed a budget Tuesday that stripped annual funding for problem gambling that comes from DC sports betting taxes.

Stripping the funds from the fiscal 2024 budget came despite responsible gambling advocates urging the District and Mayor Muriel Bowser to reconsider. It appears the money will divert to programs for substance abuse and behavioral health.

The Sports Betting Alliance, which represents DC operators like BetMGM and FanDuel, said internal problem gambling efforts work best when supported by public programs.

The move appears to be a clear negative for District of Columbia sports betting, its operators and its bettors, as there is now no funding for problem gambling in the District. On the other hand, it is almost like nothing changed since DC and the Department of Behavioral Health never spent any of the $600,000 collected for problem gambling over three years.

NCPG denounces DC decision

The National Council on Problem Gambling called for an immediate reversal of the decision, stressing that “lives depend” on those dollars:

“NCPG is profoundly disappointed in the Mayor for proposing, and the District of Columbia Council for passing, a budget that strips all funding set aside for problem gambling treatment and research in the District. Those who will suffer the greatest consequences of this policy failure are the estimated 12,000-15,000 District residents who currently suffer from a gambling problem, as well as their friends and family who are faced with the collateral consequences of a gambling addiction.

“NCPG calls on the Mayor and Councilmembers to immediately remedy this situation, lives depend on it.”

Funds from DC sports betting tax a ‘good start’

That $600,000 might not have been enough to launch a full program but would have been a “good start,” NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte told LSR in April.

Phyllis Jones, the chief of staff for the DBH, told the DCist the department offers help for problem gambling. But there is no mention of it on their website, nor is there proof that anyone in the DBH has appropriate training.

“The passing of the DC budget that removes all problem gambling funding speaks to how truly misunderstood and how little priority this important public health issue receives, said advocate Brianne Doura Schawohl of Doura Schawohl Consulting. “It was incredibly disheartening to hear the Mayor, Council Members, and the Department of Behavioral Health try and justify such a cut.

“By stating that their mental health services were adequate shows their complete lack of education and consideration for this issue, as it is factually incorrect to assert that any mental health provider can facilitate problem gambling treatment.”