Virginia’s Responsible Gaming Bill A Good Start At Addressing Problem Gambling

Written By T.J. McBride on June 22, 2023 - Last Updated on June 25, 2023
Virginia bill looks to help players gamble responsibly.

As gambling of all kinds continues to expand across the country and become more popular, there has to be a dedication toward teaching responsible gaming and treating problem gambling. Without that balance, people, neighborhoods and communities could begin to suffer.

That is why Virginia legislators passed Senate Bill 836. It’s meant to create more safeguards to avoid problem gambling and offer more ways to help problem gamblers in the state.

Young people are gambling earlier as Virginia casinos begin to open up

While dedicating more resources toward responsible gambling and treating problem gambling is always a plus, SB 836 was enacted because new data points to the need for more effort.

For example, there has been a 143% increase in calls to the Virginia Problem Gambling Hotline over the past three years, according to analysis by the Virginia Mercury. A 2021 Virginia Youth Survey showed that 21% of high school students said they had gambled or placed a wager over the last year. Sixty-five percent of the young adults aged 18-25 said they had gambled in the 30 days prior to taking the survey.

Clearly, people are starting to gamble at very young ages. Also, young adults are gambling at much higher volumes considering
it’s now much more accessible.

Virginia has five areas approved in different cities across the state for future casinos. There are now 15 online sports betting platforms active in the state. This is why Senate Bill 836 was written and passed.

New committee will focus entirely on gambling treatment and support

Once established after July 1 – when SB 836 goes into effect – Virginia will have a Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee dedicated to providing more responsible gambling resources to the state.

Creating a committee specifically for the purpose of addressing problem gambling allows for collaboration with all the groups whose interests are similarly aligned.

In addition to this new committee, Virginia has other treatment resources that most states have. They include a self-exclusion program through the Virginia Lottery, which bans an individual for a set amount of time from placing wagers. This self-exclusion program also removes that individual from any targeted mailing from gambling companies.

As mentioned above, there is also a problem gambling hotline in Virginia, as well as Gamblers Anonymous meetings available.

Senate Bill 836 a solid start, but more needs to be done in Virginia

Pennsylvania is a state Virginia should emulate over time. Early this year, the National Council on Problem Gambling said Pennsylvania is one of the top states in the nation for responsible gambling resources. The state was given high marks for policy, training staff members, assisting players and research into problem gambling.

In addition to the normal self-exclusion programs and other standard systems, Pennsylvania has three separate organizations dedicated to different aspects of addressing problem gambling: the Office of Compulsive and Problem Gambling, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

New Jersey is very similar to Pennsylvania. It has taken problem gambling seriously and has continually created more resources to combat the issue.

Along with a self-exclusion program, a problem gambling hotline and appointing a responsible gambling coordinator, New Jersey is working with a new technology that uses player data to determine if a gambler is showing signs of irresponsible gambling. Once targeted, operators can use several tools to help those players avoid worse problems.

New Jersey is also instituting steps to limit harmful or misleading marketing tactics.

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T.J. McBride

T.J. McBride is a writer and reporter based in Denver. He is a Nuggets beat writer and also covers the regulated gambling industry across the U.S. His byline can be seen at ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, Bleacher Report and more.

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