Members of the American armed forces will soon have to undergo mandatory screening for problem gambling habits due to a new provision written into the National Defence Authorization Act. Current US President Donald Trump signed the provision into law this week.
According to section 733 of the House Armed Services Committee Report 115-874, the Department of Defense (DoD) must now introduce medical screening questions related directly to gambling disorder over the next annual periodic health assessment conducted by the department. The same questions will also need to appear in the Health Related Behaviors Surveys of Active-Duty.
The new laws also stipulate that the Secretary of Defense must submit regular reports to Congress on the assessment’s findings, along with surveys linked with the prevalence of addiction and so-called gambling disorder among military members.
ADPs More Likely to Become Addicts
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has revealed that this set of legislation has been a high priority for the US government for the past 16 years. The council noted that the disorder screening questions had been present in wide-scale active duty personnel surveys between the 1990’s and 2002, after which point they were removed altogether.
Keith Whyte, the executive director of the NCPG, added that previous DoD surveys have highlighted the fact that active duty personnel (ADPs) are up to three times more likely to suffer from addiction than everyday civilians. According to Whyte, better and quicker detection of these issues would reduce social impacts and improve members’ health overall, while undetected gambling disorder could exacerbate substance abuse, depression, and even suicidal ideation.
56,000 Classed as Problem Gamblers
The executive director also iterated that the NCPG believes that military members need effective problem prevention measures, along with treatment, education and sufficient research to put recovery programs in place. With the new provision forcing armed forces members to be screened for problem gambling, he believes that the US is taking a crucial step towards improving the lives of duty personnel and their families.
The Department of Defense generates over $100 million annually from the 3,141 slot machines operated at overseas military bases. Closer to home, slots have been banned on domestic military bases since 1951. The NCPG has estimated that well over 56,000 active duty members can be classified as gambling addicts, signalling a growing problem that needs to be addressed swiftly and comprehensively.