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Problem gambling

The Health Care Authority (HCA) is responsible for planning, implementing, and providing quality oversight for the Washington State Problem Gambling Program.

For eligible individuals and their family members who are struggling with problem gambling or affected by gambling addiction, Washington State provides assessment and treatment reimbursement with contracted problem gambling agencies and certified gambling counselor providers.

Do you need immediate assistance?

Are you a mental health and substance use disorder provider interested in becoming a certified gambling counselor?

How can I tell if someone may have a gambling problem?

Individuals who answer "yes" to one or more of these questions may wish to seek help:

  • Am I spending more time and more money on gambling?
  • Am I spending a lot of time thinking about gambling?
  • Have I tried to cut back or stop, but I can't?
  • Am I irritable or restless when I can't gamble?
  • Does gambling help me escape the troubles of lie and make me feel better?
  • Have I gone back another day to win back my losses?
  • Have I lied to people I care about to hide my gambling?
  • Have I taken money that wasn't mine, written bad checks because of my gambling, or broken other laws?
  • Have I neglected my family, job, or schoolwork because of gambling?

If you think you might be living with someone who has a gambling disorder ("compulsive gambler"), view an assessment questionnaire from Gam-Anon (a support organization for family and friends impacted by problem gambling).

What should I do if I think I have a gambling problem?

To find a treatment provider in your area, call or text the Washington State Problem Gambling (ECPG) Helpline at 1-800-547-6133.The Helpline is open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

What services does the state gambling program provide?

HCA supports efforts to treat problem gambling through the following activities:

  • State-funded treatment of eligible adults and family members.
  • Outreach activities.
  • Distribution of awareness information and materials.
  • Education for individuals and clinicians through the Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling.
  • Promotion of the Washington State Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-547-6133).
  • For more info about the State Problem Gambling Program, contact Roxane Waldron (program manager).

Who is eligible to receive treatment?

All Washington residents, including people who gamble and their family members, are eligible for treatment services. You do not need to be Medicaid-eligible to receive treatment.

You may access treatment by calling or texting the Washington State Problem Gambling Helpline, open 24/7, at 1-800-547-6133. Helpline staff will refer you to a problem gambling certified counselor in your area.

If you do not have insurance, or if your insurance does not cover treatment for problem gambling, you may qualify for state-funded treatment. You may be eligible for treatment if:

  • You need treatment for a gambling disorder.
  • You are unable to afford treatment.
  • You have a strong desire to get help.

Family members impacted by problem gambling may also be eligible to receive treatment.

Learn more about WAC 182-100-0100, problem gambling and gambling disorder gambling treatment services.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What is the percentage of people who experience a gambling disorder?

Approximately 2-4 percent of all gamblers are estimated to experience a gambling disorder at some point. This number can be higher for specific groups, such as college athletes and seniors.

Are most people able to gamble without developing a gambling disorder?

Yes. Most gamblers, about 96 percent, are social gamblers. They are able to:

  • Decide on a loss limit ahead of time and stick to it.
  • Never borrow money to gamble.
  • Set a time limit.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Balance gambling with other activities.
  • Not gamble when highly stressed, depressed or troubled in some other way.

Only gamble with money set aside for entertainment, never with money for everyday expenses.

What does the term "gambling disorder" mean? Is that the same as pathological gambling?

Gambling disorder is a term used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fifth edition, (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. It is found among Non-Substance Related Disorders, 312.31.

There is a list of nine criteria, of which a person must admit to four, to be diagnosed with a gambling disorder. ("Pathological gambling" is the old term that has been replaced with "gambling disorder.")

How are services funded for problem gambling treatment?

Washington State's Problem Gambling Program was created by the Legislature to provide for the prevention and treatment of individuals and family members who are impacted by problem gambling, including the training and certification of problem gambling treatment providers (RCW 41.05.750).

The state problem gambling account was established (RCW 41.05.751) and is funded from business and occupations (B&O) taxes of 0.013 percent of gross income of "persons engaged in the business of operating contests of chance and income from parimutuel wagering" (ESHB 1031, Chapter 369, Laws of 2005).

According to Tribal Gaming Compacts, Tribal casinos may also elect to contribute to the state problem gambling fund, establish their own program, and/or direct funding to another nonprofit program.

Problem Gambling Task Force (PGTF)

In 2019, the Washington State Legislature awarded proviso funding to the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) to facilitate a joint legislative Problem Gambling Task Force (PGTF) to review existing outreach, prevention and treatment resources for problem gambling and disordered gambling, and to determine if these services need to be increased in order to reduce the number of people impacted. Learn more about the task force.

Additional resources