Obamacare Changes Should Uphold Gambling Disorders as Serious Public Health Issue

In letter to congressional leadership & HHS secretary, American Gaming Association expresses concern “with any paring back of essential health benefits that eliminates ‘gambling disorders’”

Press Release | 03.07.2017

Washington, DC – The U.S. casino gaming industry is calling on Congress to uphold gambling disorders as a serious public health issue in any changes it makes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a letter sent today to congressional leaders and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Gaming Association (AGA), Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM), National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) said such disorders should be covered by any health care plan. Today, less than two percent of the population shows signs of problem gambling.

The letter was signed by Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of AGA; Ernie Stevens, Chairman of NIGA; Keith Whyte, Executive Director of NCPG; and Marcus Prater, Executive Director of AGEM.

“Today, gambling disorders are recognized under the ACA’s essential health benefits, in the categories of ‘mental health and substance use disorders’ and ‘behavioral health treatment,’” they wrote. “We believe this recognition, which did not exist prior to the passage of ACA, is critical not only to enable adequate funding for research, but also to ensure necessary resources and treatment facilities are available for those struggling with problem gambling disorders.

“We would be concerned with any paring back of essential health benefits that eliminates ‘gambling disorders.’ Inclusion of behavioral health is critical to ensuring integrated and comprehensive healthcare in the United States, and this approach has increased access to treatment for gambling disorders,” they wrote. “While research shows that the majority of patrons set a budget of under $200 when they visit a casino, those who struggle with a gambling disorder deserve access to treatment.”

Casino gaming companies abide by AGA’s robust code of conduct that outlines measures every casino must take to address responsible gaming, including extensive employee training. This code is at the foundation of the industry’s commitment to responsible gaming and includes extensive employee training, investment to research on effective treatment and prevention methods, advertisements and marketing centered around responsible gaming messages, and a toll-free help line to ensure strict compliance with state and federal standards.

Further, the industry understands that to combat problem gambling, casino employees on the frontlines must be thoroughly educated about what defines a gambling disorder. To arm casino employees with the proper tools needed to promote responsible gaming, AGA has long supported the work done by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) to build insightful, helpful programs. NCRG, an organization dedicated to peer-reviewed research and evidence-based education programs, has produced a number of training materials on responsible gaming for casino patrons and employees, including a series of videos aimed at targeting and defining a gambling disorder.

Read the entire letter here.

About AGA: The American Gaming Association is the premier national trade group representing the $240 billion U.S. casino industry, which supports 1.7 million jobs in 40 states. AGA members include commercial and tribal casino operators, suppliers and other entities affiliated with the gaming industry. It is the mission of the AGA to be the single most effective champion of the industry, relentlessly protecting against harmful and often misinformed public policies, and paving a path for growth, innovation and reinvestment.

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