Thanks to Washington State Political Report for pointing me towards a press release from state Sen. Margarita Prentice (D-Renton), announcing proposed legislation to impose a 10 percent tax on the state’s 125 commercial mini-casinos. SB 5287 would generate about $20 million a year for the general fund.
Prentice is also the prime sponsor of SB 5037, the Senate version of a House bill that purports to establish permanent funding for problem gambling treatment and prevention programs. Unfortunately, the bill would appropriate less than $600,000 a year, an amount Jennifer McCausland of Second Chance Washington calls “grossly inadequate.”
As I mentioned last week (“Scratch this! Lottery plans for big expansion“), neighboring Oregon, with a population half the size of Washington, dedicates 1 percent of lottery revenues to treatment and prevention programs… about $3.9 million annually. McCausland has advocated spending at least that much on Washington’s epidemic of problem gambling, and recently presented a proposal to Governor Gregoire’s office that would start off by appropriating $2 million a year of lottery revenues.
But wait… if we took 10 percent of the $20 million in revenues generated from SB 5287, and combined it with an additional $2 million from the lottery… we could fully fund SB 5037 to the tune of $4 million a year. It’s so crazy, it just might work!
According to a 1998 study, problem gambling already cost the state over $70 million a year, and the industry has doubled since then. It’s time the industry starts chipping in to clean up the public health mess it has helped to create.
[NOTE: It’s nearly impossible to post a comment about gambling without getting trapped in my blog spam filter… so please be patient if your comments are held for approval.]