Gambling remains hungry for a win in state budgets

The next time you feel overcome with anger over underfunding and the treatment gap in substance use services, take solace (or get more outraged) in these comparative numbers regarding services for gambling disorders:

  • Substance use disorders in the U.S. are 3.8 times more common than gambling disorders, but public funding for substance use treatment is a whopping 330-plus times greater than public funding for problem gambling services.

  • While traditionally around 10% of people who need substance use treatment receive it, the comparative statistic in gambling disorder treatment was around one-quarter of 1% in 2016.

  • 10 states and the District of Columbia provide absolutely no public funding for problem gambling services, even though only two states in the entire country offer no government-sanctioned gambling.

The data come from the newly released 2016 Survey of Problem Gambling Services in the United States, and illustrate the significant challenge treatment and prevention advocates face in elevating gambling's negative effects to a front-burner issue in state policy discussions. The periodic survey, which had been last released for 2013, is co-produced by the Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators (APGSA), representing state government administrators of public funds for problem gambling services, and the National Council on Problem Gambling, a policy and program development organization.

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