Gambling awareness education is almost certainly coming to Virginia public schools.
Last week, the Senate unanimously passed HB 1108 after a 39-0 vote. Last month, the House of Delegates passed the proposal by a 97-3 margin.
The bill, which was introduced by Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, would add education surrounding problem gambling to the curriculum. Gambling education would be taught alongside lessons concerning the potential of addiction from alcohol and drug use.
According to data from the National Center for Responsible Gaming, 7% of young people end up as problem gamblers compared to just 1% of the adult population. Furthermore, the study states that up to 14% of children exhibit behavior that indicates gambling could end up as an addiction.
As with most controversial topics, Rasoul told The Roanoke Times that he was concerned about the kids.
“I had some parents approach me… there are stories of some of our youth who have really struggled with gambling addiction. Now, especially since we have allowed for online gambling to proliferate so much, it’s so easy for that to happen.”
Additionally, Rasoul said that he believed the “fastest-growing segment of new gamblers” were children.
Gambling awareness education comes after vast gambling expansion
Until the 2020 election season, nearly all forms of gambling were illegal in Old Dominion. In fact, only the state lottery was allowed before voters approved casino and sports betting 16 months ago.
But with the passage of the ballot initiatives, Virginians brought sports betting and five Las Vegas-style casinos to their state.
The casinos are being constructed and will open over the next 12-24 months. Once completed, those casinos will launch the brick-and-mortar sports betting market.
On the other hand, regulators rolled out online sports betting very quickly. They awarded licenses and operators were taking bets in January 2021.
By launching online sports betting operation before retail, Virginia quickly became one of the largest markets in the country. In the first year of betting, Virginia sportsbooks handled $3.2 billion worth of sports bets.
It’s that explosive growth coupled with the access to the internet that caused Rasoul to worry about the children of his state.
Still some anti-gambling sentiment amid growth
Virginia’s sports betting growth is undeniable. But it appears that there is a large portion of the population that wants to curb it.
First, there is the Richmond casino debacle. The legislature designated five economically depressed cities as a possible landing spot for a casino. Additionally, residents of those cities would have the final say over whether their home houses a casino.
Residents of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Danville and Bristol all voted ‘yes’ on the issue in 2020. As a result, it guaranteed four casino locations in Virginia. Richmond, on the other hand, decided to push the vote back a year.
Last November, residents of the state’s capital opted against bringing a casino to their home. Since then, there has been back-and-forth in the legislature about where the potential fifth casino would be located.
Aside from the Richmond drama, Sen. Tommy Norment, R-James City, introduced legislation that would ban gaming operators from using the phrase “Virginia is for Bettors.” Like Rasoul’s bill, it passed both chambers and awaits Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s signature to become law.
There are no reports on whether Youngkin intends to sign either into law. But given the overwhelming support behind Rasoul’s legislation, it seems likely Youngkin’s name will end up at the bottom of it.