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Gaming and Health Care

Obamacare changes should uphold gambling disorders as serious public health issue

One of the most important duties we face as an industry is to ensure customers enjoy our entertainment product in a responsible manner, which nearly everyone who visits casinos does. But for the fewer than 2 percent of people who do not, we make significant investments in responsible gaming tools and resources.

Changes to the nation’s health care and insurance system in 2010 added a key measure that enables adequate funding for research and ensures necessary resources and treatment facilities are available for those struggling with problem gambling disorders.

This measure—recognizing gambling disorders under the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefits—could be on the chopping block.

Gaming is presenting a united front this month in insisting that any changes to the nation’s health care law maintain this provision. Along with the AGA, Ernie Stevens, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA); Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG); and Marcus Prater, executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM), endorsed a letter to congressional leaders and the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to convey the importance of this provision.

As the Associated Press reported, “The casino industry asked Congress on Tuesday to retain gambling disorders as a serious public health matter in any changes it makes to President Obama’s signature health care law.”

Inclusion of behavioral health is critical to ensuring integrated and comprehensive health care in the United States, and this approach has increased access to treatment for gambling disorders. While research shows that the majority of patrons set a budget of under $200 when they visit a casino, those who struggle with a gambling disorder deserve access to treatment.

We will continue to work with members of Congress to share our concerns on this issue as any health care legislation advances.

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