Is Gambling Among Active-Duty Military Becoming A Threat To National Security?


Gambling addiction within the military is a topic that needs to be discussed openly. The prevalence of gambling problems among both veterans and active-duty military personnel is very high. In 2018, an estimated 56,000 active-duty military personnel lost approximately $100 million playing slot machines stationed in overseas military bases. Overseas slot machines inside military bases are poorly regulated and there is a lack of monitoring of  gambling activity. In addition to casino activities in military bases, it’s easy to access online casinos from anywhere in the world. Contrary to the military slot machines, online casino operators are much better at combating potentially problematic behaviour. Online casino operators need to hold a license to operate and in order to obtain and maintain an online casino license, strict regulations need to be adhered to. These regulations foster social responsibility in terms of combating problem gambling. However, the problem with gambling within the ranks of the military and veterans has grown so much that it’s now touted as a threat to national security.

A Threat To National Security

It’s widely known that gambling addiction is tied to a higher risk of self-harm, behavioral disorders and other mental health problems. Any active-duty military individual with gambling debts is susceptible to blackmail. The larger the gambling debt, the higher the risk of blackmailing being effective and significant. As a result, individuals who are categorized as problem gamblers may lose privileges and have problems keeping security clearances to carry out their duties efficiently.

Fortunately, Gambling Addiction Is A Treatable Disease

The government is trying to introduce strict legislation where the Defense Department is to develop plans to monitor gambling problems through health and behavioral surveys. As a preventive measure, the Defense Department is looking at putting plans in place for treatments to help military personnel, veterans and spouses who are suffering from gambling addiction. This initiative will also work as a precautionary measure where individuals who gamble will be informed of the dangers with gambling online and offline. When it comes to online gambling, discussions between industry peers and lawmakers should be held before any decisions are made on how to deal with problems arising from online casinos. It’s known to experts in the online casino industry that strict prohibition of regulated casinos will only fuel unregulated casino operators. In such a scenario, individuals who like to gamble will find their way to unregulated online casinos where not enough effort is put on safeguarding players with problematic behavior. It’s important to raise awareness about gambling and have open discussions on all levels about how to prevent gambling addiction.

Ethical Obligation To Protect The Troops And Veterans

Complicating the issue with overseas gambling is that the nearly 3,000 overseas slot machines bring in millions of revenue annually, funds which are used to boost the morale of troops and to fund recreational programmes. The prevalence of online gambling is another issue which needs to be considered; it’s more or less impossible to prohibit troops from gambling in online casinos. If the 3,000 slot machines are reduced or removed, the individuals who like to gamble will quickly seek out online casinos to pass their time. In this scenario, the problems will persist, and there will be much fewer funds available to stimulate active-duty military personnel and care programmes for veterans back home.

Gambling – A Part Of Military Culture

In many ways, gambling is glorified within the military culture. Watch any classic war movie and military personnel turn to alcohol and gambling to blow off steam when off duty. Entertainment that provides a thrill becomes tempting when personnel are bored, lonely and have too much time on their hands during off duty. Add the lack of money and the potential of winning big, and you’ll understand why gambling online and offline has become a widespread problem threatening national security. While the military doesn’t actively promote gambling, it does influence problematic behavior. Active-duty personnel are living in high-stress environments where the means to get a break from the reality is often connected to self-destructive escape mechanisms.


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