Virginia became a commercial gaming state last year with the introduction of legal mobile sports betting. As many as five commercial casinos could also be on the way, and that has prompted state lawmakers to push K-12 public education officials to make sure youth are aware of the potential dangers of gambling.
After decades of prohibiting most forms of gambling — the Virginia Lottery being the major exception — Virginia is embracing expanded gambling. Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) believes high school students should be taught how casinos and sports betting can become addictive.
Rasoul introduced House Bill 108 last month. The statute seeks to instruct the Virginia Board of Education to provide public schools with programs tailored towards educating adolescents about gambling.
HB 108 passed the House of Delegates in February by a vote of 97-3. The legislation was unanimously approved in the Senate this week, 39-0. With both chambers’ support, the measure now heads to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s (R) desk, where he’s expected to sign the measure into law.
Rasoul justified that Virginia high schoolers should be taught the dangers of gambling in the same manner as drugs and alcohol are presented.
I had some parents approach me. There are stories of some of our youth who have really struggled with gambling addiction,” Rasoul told The Roanoke Times. “Now, especially since we have allowed for online gambling to proliferate so much, it’s so easy for that to happen.”
The National Center for Responsible Gaming estimates that up to 7% of adolescents aged 14-19 are classified as problem gamblers. That’s substantially higher than just the 1% of US adults who meet problem gambling criteria.
Rasoul’s bill — if signed by the governor — would require the Board of Education to report back to the House and Senate education committees with a description of the gambling education tutorials the board develops in a reasonable time.
“What we’re saying is just be aware. Be mindful of this potential addiction,” Rasoul added.
The Virginia Assembly’s passing of the gambling education bill comes at a most appropriate time. March is the US gaming industry’s “Problem Gambling Awareness Month,” an annual period to raise awareness and focus on safeguards to better limit such societal harms.
The gambling education initiative was met with backlash from some parents. The voiced opinions included comments that parents — not schools — should take responsibility for telling their children about vices.
“Let the parents deal with gambling and schools focus on the three ‘Rs,'” said one reader on The Roanoke Times coverage. “Naïve. Going to work as well as smoking dope, drinking whiskey, and smoking cigarettes,” added another.
The emergence of legal sports betting in the US has been greatly embraced by younger people. According to research conducted by CivicScience, 53% of online sports bettors are under the age of 30. Eighty percent are male.
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