Non-Profit Group and The US Government Treatment of Problem Gambling

A number of grass-roots treatment groups have emerged throughout the United States in response to this problem. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is a leader in this area, acting as a national coordinating body for its 34 state affiliates, as well as for other treatment organizations and self-help groups. Its overall purpose is to “disseminate information about problem and pathological gambling and to promote the development of services for those afflicted with the disorder.” 54 Among the services provided by the NCPG are a nationwide help line and a referral resource database. Funding comes from membership dues, affiliate dues, grants, and private contributions. 55

One of the most important non-profit groups working in this area is Gamblers Anonymous (GA). Modeled after the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, individuals can attend meetings in their area to receive support and counseling from fellow problem and pathological gamblers and professionals. The number of GA chapters has increased from 650 in 1990 to 1,328 in October of 1998, a period of rapid legalized gambling expansion. 56 In contrast to other non-profit organizations, GA is entirely funded through private contributions, mainly from its members.

Although some colleges offer training courses for counselors and treatment programs for students with gambling-related disorders, the most important contribution at the university level is in research. One of the leaders in the field— the Harvard University Medical School Division on Addictions— supports ongoing research and publication on addictive behavior, including a focus on problem and pathological gambling. 57

Government Response State Efforts
A few states have begun allocating a relatively small amount of money for treatment services, usually drawn from tax receipts on gambling revenues. These amounts, although inadequate to the task, represent a welcome start in providing sufficient resources.

Most state efforts involve contributing to non-profit organizations that deal with problem and pathological gambling. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), state governments focus on funding treatment and education on pathological and problem gambling rather than research efforts. However, state appropriations for problem and pathological gambling are small when compared to resources allotted to other mental health and substance abuse services. 58 According to the NCPG’s 1998 National Survey of Problem Gambling Programs, the combined resource allocation by states is approximately $20 million annually to 45 different organizations. 59 This amount represents only .01 percent of the total $18.5 billion that states receive from gambling. 60 Most of the funds are portions of tax revenues from gambling operations within the state, private industry contributions and contributions by tribal governments. 61

The amounts of funding, types of assistance programs, and the contributors vary greatly from state to state. For example, Iowa allots over $3 million— less than 0.4 percent 62 of its gross gambling revenues from lotteries, riverboat casinos, and slots at racetrack— to the Iowa Gambling Treatment Program. One of the few state-run efforts, it consists of two main components: promoting public awareness and offering assistance through its help-line. However, the program does not address treatment, training, research or prevention. Connecticut’s approach is more comprehensive and treatment-oriented. There, the state government contributes a portion of lottery revenues and pari-mutuel tax revenues to the Connecticut Compulsive Gambling Treatment Program. This non-profit organization offers services for training, treatment, and prevention, conducts research, and raises public awareness. 63

54 Supra note 4, at 23-24. 55 Supra note 4, at 24. 56 Information provided by Gamblers Anonymous International Service Office, Los Angeles, California. 57 Supra note 4, at 26. 58 See id, at 18-19. 59 National Council on Problem Gambling, American Gaming Association, North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, 1998 National Survey of Problem Gambling Programs (1998). 60 Eugene M. Christiansen, “An Overview of Gambling in the United States,” presented to the NGISC, February 8, 1999, Virginia Beach, Virginia. p. 7. 61 ibid. 62 International Gaming & Wagering Business, August 1998, p. 13. Iowa’s gross gambling revenues were $807 million in 1997.