May 11, 2005 in Region

Gregoire commits state to helping problem gamblers

David Ammons Associated Press
 

OLYMPIA – Gov. Christine Gregoire on Tuesday signed legislation committing the state to help problem gamblers.

Over time, the legislation will earmark millions to help compulsive gamblers curb their addictive behavior. Until now, the effort has been subject to the vagaries of the budget battles every two years.

State surveys find that at least 5 percent of Washington’s adults have a problem with compulsive or pathological gambling at some point in their lives, and that some young people already are developing an addiction.

The state-run gambling agencies – the lottery, horse racing commission and gambling commission – are responsible for informational signs and hotline telephone numbers for problem gamblers to use.

The private nonprofit Council on Problem Gambling has provided treatment, in part with financing from tribal and nontribal gambling establishments. In 2002, the Legislature authorized the state Department of Social and Health Services to put together a treatment program for people who can’t afford it, but steady state funding never materialized.

Gregoire said the new legislation, first proposed by former Gov. Gary Locke and a study group, will expand the state program to cover prevention as well as treatment, and will provide a steady flow of financing.

A new tax is imposed on operators of social card games, bingo, raffles, punchboard games and pulltabs, with an exemption for “mom & pop” businesses that have gross gambling income of less than $50,000 a year.

The state budget included $1.5 million in the next two years, but the work group said $3.5 million is needed so the program can reach more than 600 gamblers and their families. Tribes already have agreed to kick in more than $450,000 and in mid-2006, the Lottery Commission will contribute to the fund.

Advocates said during legislative hearings that prevention and treatment actually save money in the long run by cutting down on crime and welfare. The personal cost to families, including the potential loss of home, pension money and college funds, can devastate people, lawmakers were told.

Gregoire also signed:

“A measure creating a work group to help develop services for people who were victims of human trafficking.

“A bill that requires a written disclosure form for cemetery plot purchases, including disclosure of multiple interment burial spaces.

“A new requirement that local land-use plans include provision for improving services for pedestrians and bicyclers.

“A measure boosting subagents’ service fees for changes in certificates of ownership and preparation of an affidavit of lost title from $8.50 to $10, and for renewing a vehicle registration or other service from $3.50 to $4.

“A measure requiring landlords to pay relocation assistance to tenants who are displaced because their residence is condemned or declared unlawful to occupy.

“A bill requiring law enforcement to provide, if requested, a copy of any police report filed by a consumer claiming to be a victim of identity theft.

“A measure that suspends contributions toward the cost of future gain-sharing benefit distributions in the Public Employees’ Retirement System, the School Employees’ Retirement System, and the Teachers’ Retirement System for the 2005-2007 biennium.

“A plan to require Superior Court clerks to collect an additional $30 fee for the initial petition for dissolution, legal separation or declaration concerning the validity of marriage, $24 of which is deposited in a domestic violence prevention account and the remaining $6 retained by the county for community-based services for victims of domestic violence.

“A measure creating the Dan Thompson Memorial Developmental Disabilities Community Trust Account. All proceeds from excess property at Rainier School and Lakeland Village will be used to provide community services for people with developmental disabilities.

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