Sen. Joe Addabbo wanted to do something to recognize and acknowledge September as Responsible Gaming Education Month.
Put out a statement? Sure, but certainly he could do more. How about partnering with Resorts World NYC and with the New York Council on Problem Gambling to create a safe, anonymous virtual education session to discuss gambling addiction and responsible gambling in NY? That’s more up Addabbo’s lane.
“Whenever I have an opportunity to highlight addiction, problem gaming,” Addabbo told PlayNY, “I can’t be just the one on the forefront of expanding gaming in New York without truly understanding that there are pitfalls.”
That’s exactly what Addabbo organized last week: a virtual webinar of sorts that featured anonymous attendees as well as Scott Meyer – a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate with the NYCPG who has endured gambling addiction and now shares his experience to educate others.
Problem gambling education session provided up-close experiences
The Sept. 13 virtual get-together held a goal to not only educate attendees on problem gambling but also to connect those in need of help with organizations that can provide it.
The hourlong meeting was highlighted by Meyer, who related his own journey with gambling addiction to the dozen-plus attendees. That included his run-ins with law enforcement as well as three suicide attempts.
“Gambling was fun for me at some point in my life, as it should be,” Meyer said during the meeting. “It’s entertainment. It’s like going to a Broadway show, or going to a ballgame.”
However, Meyer said, his behavior began changing around the age of 30. For the next 12 years, “gambling became the central point of my total existence. It changed my character, made me a person that I was not.”
As Michelle Hadden, assistant executive director of the NYCPG, said in a statement afterward, attendees “got important information for themselves and their families and left knowing that help is available. “The impact of that cannot be underestimated.”
Addabbo continues to fight for NY problem gambling resources
The National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that some 2 million adults meet the criteria for severe gambling. Another 4-6 million have mild or moderate problems. In New York alone, over 600,000 adults experience problems related to gambling activity.
Just another reason Addabbo wanted to stage this education session.
“We can always talk about New York’s No. 1 product in the country for mobile sports betting or the fact that the gaming industry roughly gives $4 billion every year to education in the state and the thousands of jobs it brings in,” the senator told PlayNY. “I can’t go with all the benefits without truly putting on the forefront a discussion about addiction. … I wanted to do something.”
If even one person showed up to the event, Addabbo reflected, and that person received any help in any way, “we’ve succeeded.” All told, Addabbo said about 14 individuals attended.
Expanded NY gambling coming in 2024
Next year, Addabbo intends to again introduce legislation to legalize online casinos in New York. He also expects to make an effort to authorize online lottery.
Expanding legalized online gambling in New York has been on the front-burner for Addabbo for several years. Each effort included an emphasis on NY responsible gambling and problem gaming.
“I can’t talk about (expansion) without in the same breath talking about the pitfalls that iGaming and iLottery may bring and how we address it,” Addabbo said.
Addabbo obviously wants NY online casinos to receive the legislative green light. Same for online lottery. After all, experts believe the Empire State is losing billions of dollars every year to other states with legal online casinos or even to illegal, offshore sites.
And the state should find efficient funding for problem gambling
That money should stay in New York, Addabbo maintains. But, by the same token, the legislature should ensure that enough resources are being devoted to problem gambling in the Empire State.
“It’s not how much we spend, it’s how we spend it,” Addabbo said. “If we were able to expand to peer-to-peer counseling or 24/7 counseling or treatment centers … I learned from that event last week what’s important: promotions, advertising, issues that we have to address.”
At the end of the day, the webinar “gave me and my legislative team a little homework to do,” Addabbo said.
“That’s fine, because in the end, people not only who have an addiction but people are on their way to potentially getting addicted so we can hopefully catch them before they lose their house or it affects their lives.”