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Rep. Paul Tonko Pushes NDAA Amendment to Ban Slot Machines on Military Bases, Citing Gambling Addiction Risks

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A congressman is advocating for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prohibit slot machines on military bases, expressing concerns about the potential risks of gambling addiction among service members. Rep. Paul Tonko, representing New York’s 20th congressional district, has filed an amendment aimed at preventing the operation of slot machines by the military, sparking a crucial debate on the floor of the House.

Addressing concerns and advocating for change:

Tonko’s proposed amendment is among over 1,300 amendments submitted by lawmakers, all vying for consideration during the NDAA debate. In a statement to Military.com, Tonko emphasized his commitment to addressing the escalating issue of problem gambling within the armed forces. He stated, “I’ve been leading the charge in Congress to address the rise in problem gambling.”

Tonko’s amendment seeks to confront the potential risks associated with slot machines on military bases, highlighting the importance of prioritizing the well-being of service members. His proposal reflects a broader effort to tackle problem gambling and ensure that addictive products, such as slot machines, are subject to rigorous scrutiny and regulation.

The presence of slot machines on U.S. military bases dates back to the 1970s when they were reintroduced overseas to deter service members from seeking gambling opportunities off base. Despite their long-standing presence, concerns about the impact of slot machines on service members’ financial well-being and morale have persisted.

According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the military operates over 3,000 slot machines in 12 countries, generating substantial annual revenue exceeding $100 million. While this revenue stream contributes significantly to funding recreational activities on military bases, Tonko’s amendment underscores the need to reassess the balance between financial gain and potential harm to service members.

Health concerns and legislative response:

The proposal to ban slot machines on military bases reflects broader concerns about the prevalence of problem gambling within the armed forces. A study conducted by Rutgers University revealed that active-duty service members and veterans are more than twice as likely to exhibit signs of problem gambling compared to the civilian population.

In response to these alarming statistics, Congress mandated the inclusion of gambling disorder questions in annual health screenings for service members. A subsequent report to Congress highlighted the prevalence of gambling disorder among active-duty troops and reservists, prompting calls for proactive measures to address this pressing issue.

Beyond the proposed amendment to ban slot machines, Tonko has been actively involved in advocating for comprehensive legislation to combat gambling addiction more broadly. His efforts extend to regulating online sports betting companies and implementing stringent safeguards to protect vulnerable individuals from the adverse effects of gambling.

As the debate over slot machines on military bases unfolds, Tonko’s initiative serves as a poignant reminder of the ongoing imperative to prioritize the welfare of service members and safeguard them against the risks associated with problem gambling. In an era of evolving challenges, his proposal represents a crucial step towards fostering a safer and more supportive environment for those who serve their country with dedication and valor.

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