CARSON CITY — A bill that would significantly increase the amount of funding available to address problem gambling in Nevada saw no opposition Wednesday during a Senate committee hearing.
Senate Bill 120 would increase funding from the approximately $1.8 million in fiscal year 2018 in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed 2017-19 budget to as much as $2.8 million a year.
Anthony Cabot, a member of the Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling, said the current revenue comes from a $2 fee on slot machines. But the number of machines has been declining, reducing the amount of money available for the program.
The bill would change the source of funding from the $2 per slot machine fee to a set amount of license fees that would see an annual increase for inflation.
The change would end the link to the number of slot machines and provide for a more stable funding source going forward, Cabot told the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
Sen. Tick Segerblom, one of two sponsors of the bill, said the gaming industry is supportive of the bill.
Nevada is a “live and let live” state, but it also needs to support programs for people who suffer from addictive behaviors, he said.
There was no testimony in opposition to the bill during the hearing. No immediate action was taken on it.
Cabot said the original legislation approved in 2005 opted for the $2 per slot tax with the belief that the number of machines would continue to increase over time. But the number of slot machines has declined by 50,000 in that time, reducing the revenue to combat problem gambling, he said.
Slot fees from the current program are estimated at about $1.3 million a year for the coming two years.
Denise Quirk, chairwoman of the advisory committee, said the fees have been as low as $800,000 a year during lean times in Nevada.
Nevada is a leader in global gaming, and the state should also be a leader in reducing problem gambling, she said. The state has the second-highest incidence of problem gambling in the nation, Quirk said. An estimated 142,000 Nevada residents are problem gamblers.
The funding change would mean about $1 per capita to combat problem gambling, up from the current 60 cents, she said. Nevada is among the states with the lowest funding for such programs, with Delaware at $1.40 per capita and Oregon at $1.30, according to information provided to the committee.
The funds go to programs administered by the state Department of Health and Human Services that address several areas, including prevention and research.
The bill also proposes to change the composition of the advisory committee to include additional professionals who can participate in the effort to combat the problem.
Contact Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.