Senator Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] has some major concerns these days. At the top of her list is the growing gambling problem among today’s US servicemen. The National Council for Problem Gambling released an alarming report in March that led to the Senator’s demand of an official study to be conducted into the matter of gambling addiction among the military.
According to the NCPB’s report, the Defense Department is responsible for the operation of approximately 3,000 slot machines on overseas military bases, which are generating an estimated $100,000,000 annually. Those funds are filtered back into the Department’s treasury, but according to the report, not a single penny of it is being directed towards the prevention or treatment of problem gambling among the military.
The Massachusetts Senator has demanded that the Governmental Accountability Office conduct a study into the growing gambling problem among today’s servicemen. The idea is to determine whether a portion of the proceeds from these slot machines should be directed toward prevention and treatment programs.
“If the military is going to operate gambling facilities that bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue,” explained Sen. Warren, “it also needs to ensure there is adequate prevention, treatment, and financial counseling available for service members struggling with gambling addictions.”
The US Senate was affable to Sen. Warren’s plea, approving an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to authorize the study.
In commending the Senate for taking action in this matter, she said that examining the root of the gambling problem is “an important first step in helping members of the armed forces and their families who are affected by problem gambling.”
The NGCP report explained that, “Studies consistently find gambling addiction rates among active-duty and veterans are significantly higher than the general population.”
The NCPG estimates that 36,000 active members of the armed forced already meet the criteria to be classified as having a gambling problem. Additionally, servicemen who are addicted to gambling “can create a critical readiness problem”.
Research says Gambling Problem Impedes Military Readiness
Another study conducted by the University of Georgia expanded on the topic of military readiness issues associated with gambling problems. Researchers found that, “Military personnel are at risk of experiencing negative consequences as a result of gambling related issues such as stress from financial debts, which may have a negative effect on military readiness.”
“Furthermore,” the study indicates, “military and veteran populations are more prone to substance abuse, mental health problems, and suicide, all of which are highly co-morbid with problem gambling.”
Researchers found that there is a “clear need” to provide screening for all active and veteran military personnel to determine if they have a gambling problem. “The identification of those at risk of and suffering from problem gambling provides opportunities to intervene, which may reduce the incidence and prevalence of problem gambling, as well as alleviate associated negative impacts to public health.”
Overall, researchers attributed a higher propensity for risk-taking among servicemen to a direct result of military experiences, including “exposure to violent combat, killing someone, and experiencing high levels of trauma”.
In conclusion, the study recommended that prevention and treatment programs for servicemen with a gambling problem be implemented seamlessly into the military’s existing substance abuse programs.