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Problem Gambling

The Washington State Gambling Commission is committed to the encouragement of responsible gaming practices.

Confidential help is available 24 hours a day, if you believe you or someone you know may have a problem with gambling. Call 800.547.6133 or chat online.

Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling

ECPG is a private, not-for-profit organization offering programs and services for problem and compulsive gambling in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest. View ECPG's problem gambling poster.

Self-Exclusion Program

Passed during the 2019 legislative session, House Bill 1302 authorizes the Gambling Commission to create rules for a statewide self-exclusion program for licensed card rooms, and also create a process for tribal operations to voluntarily opt into the program.

The Gambling Commission will develop the process and scope of the program through rule-making and will have until June 30, 2021 to finalize the rules for the program.  Additionally, information obtained by the Commission under this program will be exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.  The goal is to create a program where a person with a gambling problem or gambling disorder can submit a single form and voluntarily exclude themselves from some or all card rooms and casinos.

Until the new rules are effective, individuals who want to self-exclude will need to complete the forms at each facility they wish to be excluded from. In order to expedite the process, we suggest that you contact the gambling facility prior to visiting. A representative should be able to explain that facility's process and tell you the best time to visit.

Problem Gambling Task Force

During the 2019 legislative session, the Legislature appropriated $100,000 for the formation of a joint legislative task force on problem gambling. The task force will complete a comprehensive review of current problem gambling funding, services, programs, and policies. The task force will be responsible for providing recommendations to the Legislature on how to assist problem gamblers.

Problem Gambling Task Force Timeline
Problem Gambling Task Force Website
PGTF's Interim Report to the Legislature (Nov 2020)

Problem Gambling Study

The Gambling Commission’s mission is to protect the public by ensuring gambling is legal and honest. Two significant ways to fulfill this mission are to promote effective responsible gaming policies in our gambling industry and advocate for effective problem gambling programs and services for people who wish to address their gambling disorder. The Gambling Commission has worked with the Legislature, tribes, the gambling industry, Washington State Problem Gambling Program, Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling, and problem gambling behavioral health providers to educate ourselves on problem gambling topics and look for effective policies and programs that will benefit the regulated gambling industry and improve the lives of people suffering from gambling disorders.

In its 2018-19 supplemental operating budget, the Legislature included a provision – Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 6032 – directing the Washington State Gambling Commission to contract for a study to survey the scope of services available for pathological and problem gamblers and their families, and analyze current prevention, treatment and recovery programs and services in our state. The Legislature required the Gambling Commission to submit the results of the study and provide policy recommendations to improve problem gambling services and programs to the Legislature by February 15, 2019.

The Gambling Commission contracted with researchers from the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and the Washington State University’s Carson College of Business to conduct the study. In developing the study, we determined that it would focus on two problem gambling topics—responsible gaming and behavioral health services. Therefore, this study reviews and analyzes current responsible gaming practices among Washington’s gambling industry. It also reviews and analyzes prevention, treatment, and recovery services for pathological and problem gamblers in Washington. This comprehensive approach provides information and guidance for the gambling industry, including gambling regulators, and behavioral health providers while meeting the Legislature’s objective for this study.

This problem gambling study is a significant positive step towards better addressing problem gambling in our state. It is important for the state to review current responsible gaming and problem gambling policies. We hope this study’s results and recommendations will allow our state to move forward and update current responsible gaming practices, where needed, and strengthen the state’s commitment to promoting and protecting the public health of those suffering from a gambling disorder.

There is a comprehensive set of responsible gaming and problem gambling results and recommendations. Additionally, there are many areas for improvement in responsible gaming practices and problem gambling public health services.

Gambling Disorder Definition

The following are the diagnostic criteria of Gambling Disorder as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5):

Diagnostic criteria

A. Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12­month period:
a. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
b. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
c. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
d. Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling
experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with
which to gamble).
e. Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
f. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
g. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
h. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity
because of gambling.
i. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

B. The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.
Specify if:
Episodic: Meeting diagnostic criteria at more than one time point, with symptoms subsiding
between periods of gambling disorder for at least several months.
Persistent: Experiencing continuous symptoms, to meet diagnostic criteria for multiple years.
Specify if:
In early remission: After full criteria for gambling disorder were previously met, none of the criteria
for gambling disorder have been met for at least 3 months but for less than 12 months.
In sustained remission: After full criteria for gambling disorder were previously met, none of the
criteria for gambling disorder have been met during a period of 12 months or longer.
Specify current severity:
Mild: 4–5 criteria met.
Moderate: 6–7 criteria met.
Severe: 8–9 criteria met.

Self Assessment

Are you concerned that about a potential gambling problem? Take the ten-question self-assessment provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling.