The rapid expansion of the gambling industry in the US has resulted in record-breaking profits, but it has also caused significant harm to mental health and society. This urgent problem requires immediate action as rates of gambling addiction and its consequences, such as suicides, continue to increase.

One alarming aspect of the gambling industry is the strong link between gambling addiction and suicide. Shockingly, nearly half of those seeking help for gambling issues have considered taking their own lives, and 17% of those with suicidal thoughts have already attempted suicide. These distressing numbers highlight the need for comprehensive support systems and resources to prevent such tragic outcomes.

Recognizing the seriousness of this issue, New Jersey, a state known for its involvement in sports and online betting, has taken proactive steps to address gambling harms. State legislators have proposed bills to combat compulsive gambling among minors. These bills support the implementation of prevention programs in public colleges that work with sports betting companies. They also suggest the creation of a Gambling Treatment Diversion Court Pilot Program, offering alternative paths to justice for those whose crimes are driven by gambling addiction.

While these initiatives in New Jersey are commendable, the prevalence of gambling disorders raises concerns about the lack of comprehensive treatment programs to support those struggling with addiction. Sadly, governments have done little to address the needs of gambling addicts or tackle the mental health issues associated with gambling. Policymakers must prioritize the development and implementation of comprehensive treatment programs and resources to provide support and hope for those in need.

In an effort to combat the growing problem, New Jersey now offers phone and online options for self-exclusion from gambling, empowering individuals to take control of their addiction. However, a collaborative approach involving governments, gaming companies, and mental health professionals is essential to address the root causes and consequences of gambling addiction. This broader approach can ensure the effectiveness of prevention and treatment efforts.

The harmful effects of gambling are not limited to New Jersey. Currently, more than 30 out of the 46 states involved in gambling offer sports betting, further contributing to the growth of this market. Partnerships between corporations and governments have significantly contributed to the increase in gambling revenue, which reached a staggering $99 billion in the following year, according to data from the American Gaming Association. Given this rapid growth, a comprehensive national response is crucial to address the negative impacts of gambling.

To address the urgency of the situation, the federal government has proposed the GRIT Act. This legislation aims to allocate federal sports excise tax revenue to fund programs dedicated to preventing and treating gambling addiction and conducting research. By prioritizing funding for essential resources such as helplines, counseling services, and public awareness campaigns, the GRIT Act seeks to provide much-needed support to those affected by gambling addiction.

It is important to acknowledge that the problem extends beyond financial losses and mental health issues. Sports gambling and online betting, in particular, have been identified as particularly harmful, especially to young people. With six states currently offering online gambling, strict measures must be put in place to protect vulnerable individuals from the allure of these platforms.

In conclusion, the rapid growth of the gambling industry in the US has led to a concerning increase in gambling harms. The strong connection between gambling addiction and mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and suicide, cannot be ignored. It is essential for governments, gaming companies, and mental health professionals to collaborate in establishing robust prevention, treatment, and support systems. By prioritizing the well-being of individuals affected by gambling addiction, we can begin to address the underlying causes and mitigate the devastating impacts of this pervasive issue.