Boosting needed funding

The United States’ leading gambling industry advocacy and lobbying group has come out in opposition to federal legislation that would earmark a portion of sports betting taxes for problem gambling services. The Gambling Addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment (GRIT) Act was introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Oregon) last Thursday.

The bill would divert half of the 0.25% federal tax on legal sports betting to the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program as well as the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

The federal government collected almost $235 million from the small tax in 2022.

“Gambling addictions are hurting countless families, children, and communities in Oregon and across America. Yet unlike alcohol and drug addictions, there are currently no federal funds devoted solely to helping stop problem gambling,” said Salinas.

Because the money would come from an existing tax, no new taxes would need to be created to fund the programs. Existing programs and procedures within the Department of Health and Human Services would be used to administer the funds, so no new layer of bureaucracy would be necessary.

“Dedicated federal resources to tackle problem gambling head-on will provide much-needed support, resources, and treatment for those suffering from gambling addiction. As the number of Americans who are suffering from gambling addiction surges, legislation like the GRIT Act is needed now more than ever,” said Blumenthal.

AGA wants tax eliminated altogether

The American Gaming Association (AGA), however, does not like the GRIT Act one bit.

“Congress enacted the federal sports betting excise tax in the 1950s as a tool to prosecute illegal gambling operations,” said Chris Cylke, the AGA’s Vice President of Government Relations. “Today, this antiquated policy puts the nascent legal market at a competitive disadvantage against offshore illegal operators who do not pay any taxes and prey on vulnerable customers.”

Presumably, Cylke means that the 0.25% tax makes it more likely for US-based, regulated gambling companies to increase their prices to make up for the tax (because of course big companies have to pass along every expense to their customers). But, as mentioned, no new taxes will be created and the current sports betting tax will not be increased – the funds will simply come from the existing tax.

Thus, it sounds like the AGA is just taking this opportunity to argue against the tax again.

Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nevada), co-chair of the House Congressional Gaming Caucus, has also spoken out against the GRIT Act, calling it “redundant” as taxes and fees sportsbooks and casinos already pay go toward problem gambling treatment.

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