NCRG At G2e: Industry And Government Support Of Treatment Centers – Evaluating Where The Dollars Go

Once again, the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction continued its partnership with Global Gaming Expo (G2E) by offering the ‘NCRG at G2E’ track of sessions on October 2. For the second year, the NCRG Conference co-located with G2E, making it easier for attendees of both events to learn about best practices in responsible gaming. The first session on this year’s NCRG at G2E series took a close look howtreatment providers report on their use of funds and how government and the private sector evaluates the impact of these services.

First, Mark Vander Linden, M.S.W., executive officer of the Office of Gambling Treatment and Prevention at the Iowa Department of Public Health and president of the Association of Problem Gambling Service Administrators, provided an overview of funding nationally and in Iowa. Vander Linden stated that with the exception of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there has been a lack of federal funding on problem gambling treatment and prevention efforts. In the absence of such federal efforts, individual state efforts have emerge that are often divergent from one another in terms of funding levels and resources offered.

Vander Linden referenced a 2010 national survey of publicly funded problem gambling services. This survey was completed by 46 states and found that a total of $58.4 million was spent on problem gambling services through state-dedicated public funds. Less than half of those funds were directed to treatment services. He also noted highlighted the difference in funding between treatment for gamblingdisorders and substance use disorders. Vander Linden explained that while substance use disorders are about eight times more prevalent than gambling disorders, public funding for substance abuse treatment is about 674 times greater than public funding for problem gambling treatment ($16.17 billion versus $24.0 million).

In Iowa, gaming revenue is $330 million. Of this, $3.1 million is allocated toward problem gambling efforts. Vander Linden noted that these funds go to counseling, primary prevention and education, secondary prevention, helpline referral and education, marketing, training and professional development and evaluation, with treatment and prevention being the priority. One key component, Vander Linden noted, is to spend a portion of the funds to closely examine the effectiveness of these problem gambling resources.

Next, Maureen Greeley, executive director of the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling (ECPG) in Washington state, discussed problem gambling funding in her area, noting that it is a goal of her organization to ensure they are providing consistent, high-quality services with the limited funding they receive. Greeley stated that the ECPG receives 0 .013 percent of gambling revenue as funding for problem gambling treatment and education services, and this comes from state, tribal and private sources.

Finally, Peter Cohen, director of regulatory affairs for The Agenda Group and former executive commissioner and CEO of the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation, provided an international perspective of problem gambling funding from his experience in Australia. According to Cohen, the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation was recently established as an independent government agency to fund research on gambling disorders, conduct community education initiatives and provide services, such as a gambling help line. While this is considered an independent agency, Cohen noted that since it gets its funding from the government, it has a responsibility to implement government policy.

The agency was awarded $150 million over four years ($37 million per year) to fund programs that fulfill the organization’s mission. He explained that the Responsible Gambling Foundation will continue to receive support as long as people keep gambling, but at some point, they will have to determine if they are getting their “bang for the buck” with this funding.
When evaluating the effectiveness of the treatment programs, Cohen raised the questions: Is it better when the number of people in treatment programs increases or decreases?

What is your opinion? Does an increase or decrease in the number of people in treatment programs show that problem gambling programs are more effective? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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