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The GRIT Act: A Game-Changer for Gambling Addiction Recovery, Community Support, and Social Responsibility


By Cait Huble, Director of Communications, National Council on Problem Gambling

June 25, 2024

NASPL Insights Online




Lotteries serve as both community stakeholders and revenue generators, deeply vested in supporting local well-being while also minimizing the risks of gambling-related harm. The Gambling Addiction Recovery Investment and Treatment (GRIT) Act offers a strategic path to balance both priorities. By addressing the growing public health crisis of gambling addiction, the GRIT Act is a net positive for state lotteries interested in maintaining both a healthy community and a healthy player base.



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The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) estimates that approximately 9 million American adults suffer from gambling addiction. The national annual social cost of problem gambling stands at a staggering $14 billion, encompassing factors including healthcare costs, criminal justice expenses, and lost productivity. Despite its substantial impact, problem gambling remains a largely overlooked issue in public policy discourse. Although many states devote a portion of gambling revenue to programs addressing problem gambling, those funds are often not sufficient to meet the growing need for help and treatment. In addition, there are no federal funds dedicated to addressing gambling addiction in the United States, despite the federal government profiting significantly from gambling taxes on both winnings and sports betting.


In January 2024, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Andrea Salinas introduced the Gambling Addiction Recovery Investment and Treatment (GRIT) Act. This act proposes allocating half of the funds generated by the existing federal excise tax on sports betting for gambling addiction prevention, treatment and research.



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Key Provisions of the GRIT Act:


  • Revenue Allocation: The GRIT Act would provide a minimum of $75 million in funding every year for 10 years to address problem gambling.


  • Utilization of Existing Programs: The GRIT Act leverages existing programs and grant channels through the Department of Health and Human Services.


  • No New Taxes: The federal sports betting excise tax has been in place since the 1950s. From FY20 to FY21, the revenue from the federal sports gambling excise tax alone increased from $38.7 million to $110.7 million. NCPG estimates this tax generated $150 million in revenue in 2023. This number is likely to continue increasing as more states legalize sports gambling.


The GRIT Act's significance cannot be overstated in a landscape where federal funding for gambling addiction is nonexistent. The U.S. is unprepared to address gambling addiction adequately, leading to compounding issues at both the national and state levels. Six states and the District of Columbia currently provide no funding to address gambling addiction. Even in states with funding for gambling addiction treatment and research, many of the per capita allocations are extraordinarily low compared to funding to address alcohol, tobacco, and drug addiction.



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One of the most significant benefits of the GRIT Act is the potential for increased access to treatment for individuals struggling with gambling addiction. By dedicating funding to the states and allowing them to address gambling addiction through programs that best resonate with their unique communities, the GRIT Act will help ensure that those in need have access to the support and resources necessary for recovery. Expanding access to treatment nationwide improves outcomes for individuals and strengthens communities by reducing the overall impact of addiction.


Lotteries recognize the importance of proactive measures in combating gambling addiction, by incorporating responsible gambling messaging and education opportunities, ensuring content and imagery is designed in a way that does not primarily appeal to minors, and highlighting pathways for seeking help. Through the GRIT Act, revenue from the sports betting excise tax could be directed by states towards public awareness campaigns and educational initiatives aimed at preventing addiction, similar to what many states are already doing but on an even larger scale.


Addiction prevention and education initiatives targeted at youth play a crucial role in curbing gambling addiction rates in the long term. By equipping young individuals with the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about gambling, these programs can help instill responsible attitudes toward participation and prevent many from developing problems in the first place.



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Lotteries benefit from the increased public trust that arises from responsible gambling practices. When the public sees that lotteries are part of a broader effort to address gambling addiction, it reinforces the notion that lotteries are committed to public welfare. A notable feature of the GRIT Act is its funding mechanism, which is independent of lottery revenue and state taxes. This separation ensures that the act's initiatives are not financially burdensome on the lottery system. Instead, the GRIT Act draws from already-paid federal sports betting excise taxes. Therefore, the funds allocated to gambling addiction recovery do not detract from the lottery's primary financial contributions to public services.


The Gambling Addiction Recovery Investment and Treatment Act is a pivotal piece of legislation that substantially benefits state lotteries and public health. By providing resources to combat gambling addiction, the act seeks to strengthen the public social safety net for those impacted by gambling addiction, alleviating some of the burden currently borne exclusively by states and lotteries. Although the GRIT Act is not funded by lottery revenue and lotteries cannot directly support legislation, its positive impact on public welfare and the integrity of state lotteries is undeniable.

 

Learn more about the GRIT Act and sign the petition in support at www.GRITAct.com.


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