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. Starting January 1, 2024, problem gambling treatment services are covered by Medicaid for Apple Health enrolled members.

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?

People 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.
  • If you are enrolled in Apple Health (Medicaid), please contact your managed care organization's member services to locate a provider. If you are unable to find a provider, please contact HCA's problem gambling program staff.
  • The State Problem Gambling Program provides free problem gambling assessment and treatment for eligible individuals and their loved ones. View a list of contracted providers.
  • The Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling website hosts an location-based directory for certified gambling counselors. The directory includes insurances accepted, languages spoken, telehealth provided, and specific treatments provided.

Who is eligible to receive treatment?

All Washington residents, including people who gamble and their family members, are eligible for treatment services. Apple Health enrollees should access services through Medicaid. Contact your Managed care member services for assistance. 

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.

What services does the state problem 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 administrator).

Learn more

View WAC 182-100-0100: Problem gambling and gambling disorder treatment services.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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

Yes. Based on a recent study, about 80 percent of people who gamble will never develop a gambling addiction. They are able to:

  • Decide on a loss limit ahead of time and stick to it.
  • Not borrow money to gamble.
  • Set a time limit.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Balance gambling with other activities.
  • Not gamble when highly stressed, depressed or troubled.

Among people who gamble, 17 percent are at an increased risk for developing a gambling addiction, and 3.5 percent at a moderate-to-high risk of developing a gambling disorder.

What does the term "gambling disorder" mean?

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