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America's escalating gambling boom is sounding alarm bells in Congress, where Representative Andrea Salinas, (photo above), is spearheading a push for federal intervention to address the surge in rates. Despite the gaming industry's fierce resistance, lawmakers are considering legislation that could allocate tens of millions of dollars in funding to support those adversely affected.

Salinas is adamant that the urgency of holding gambling operators accountable for the escalating addiction rates. The legalization of sports betting in 38 states, following the Supreme Court's 2018 decision, has led to a booming market attracting billions in wagers monthly. Simultaneously, the spike in addiction cases has raised concerns among clinicians, counsellors, and advocates.

Grit Act aims to tackle gambling addiction at source

To combat the growing crisis, Salinas and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal have proposed the Grit (Gambling addiction Recovery, Investment, and Treatment) Act. This legislation leverages the federal sports excise tax, which experienced a substantial increase in revenues – estimated at $271 million last year – due to the expanding legal market.

The outlines a strategic approach: half of the tax revenues would be allocated to gambling addiction treatment, prevention, and research. Importantly, this financial support wouldn't burden taxpayers, as the funds would flow through an existing federal grant program. Experts believe that this act would significantly enhance resources for addiction prevention, research, and treatment.

Salinas draws attention to the interconnectedness of gambling addiction with other mental health disorders, such as alcoholism. She warns that if left unaddressed, the unchecked gambling boom could become a major contributor to an escalating mental health crisis, emphasizing the need to tackle this issue at its upstream source.

Despite the potential benefits of the Grit Act, the proposal faces staunch opposition from gambling operators. Chris Cylke, senior vice-president at the American Gaming Association, argues that the act would give illegal operators an advantage and suggests that the antiquated excise tax should be repealed. This stance, however, is criticized by advocates for greater compulsive gambling support, who argue that the industry must take external responsibility.

In conclusion, the battle between legislators and gambling operators intensifies as the Grit Act seeks to address the unchecked gambling boom's impact on mental health. While Salinas acknowledges the challenges ahead, she remains committed to the long campaign, recognizing that addressing gambling addiction rates requires urgent attention and proactive legislative measures.

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