NY Problem Gambling Services In Need Of An Update, Study Finds

Written By Nicholaus Garcia on February 25, 2019 - Last Updated on November 30, 2022

More than a decade has passed since New York has taken a look at problem gambling services, a new study shows.

The 17-page report said the last time the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) took an in-depth look at gambling treatment programs was in 2006.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli told the Democrat & Chronicle “gambling addiction destroys lives and families.”

“When New York expanded casino gaming, it took on the responsibility of making sure there were adequate services to meet the rise in addiction that comes with it,” he said.

DiNapoli’s office conducted the audit between Jan. 2017 and Sept. 2018.

Breaking down the report

According to the report:

“Since 2006, OASAS has not conducted a comprehensive needs assessment or social impact study to identify the number or location of individuals in need of such services. As such, we were unable to determine whether OASAS has a sufficient number of treatment programs available for problem gamblers, or if OASAS’ limited resources were applied where they were needed most.”

The report specifies that each year, every county — including the five New York City boroughs — must “conduct a broad-based planning process” to identify the needed mental services and how to address them.

However, despite the emergence of several new forms of gambling, including sports betting, the issue is viewed separately and is not included in the county planning process. General problem gambling is lumped in with OASAS’ overall addiction treatment program.

OASAS Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez could not be reached for comment.

Key findings

Even though four commercial NY casinos opened in 2013, the state comptroller’s office found no impact study – to identify where problem gambling treatment is needed – has been conducted.

Other findings include:

  • Forty of the state’s 62 counties lack treatment programs.
  • OASAS offers 39 problem gambling treatment programs throughout the state.
  • In some cases, the nearest treatment program is one or several counties away.
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Moving forward

Trisha Schell-Guy, deputy counsel for OASAS, said in a letter the organization agrees with the findings in the report but attribute the lack of studies to “inadequate funding.”

“When funding is available, we will seek to perform a study to determine the need for problem gambling services. In the interim, OASAS has initiated a project to add questions to existing reporting requirements in our county planning system to capture problem gambling needs, which will go live in March 2019.”

“Further, OASAS is in the process of procuring for a vendor to conduct a statewide youth development survey of school-age youth on the prevalence of their substance use and gambling activities.”

In 2018, OASAS’ problem gambling budget was $5.9 million. The budget sets aside $2.6 million for treatment services for the New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG).

Additionally, $3.1 million will help fund seven new resource centers in the state. Each center will also collaborate with the local gambling facility in its geographic region.

The report says:

“Each resource center will be responsible for facilitating problem gambling awareness, community education, prevention, treatment, and recovery support through referrals to the most appropriate level of service based on needs and cultural relevance.”

New York ranks 27th out of 45 states with publicly funded problem gambling services, according to a 2016 US survey. New York spends 16 cents per capita on problem gambling services.

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
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Nicholaus Garcia

Nick comes from West Texas where he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in psychology. After a five-year stint in Chicago, where he wrote about local politics and graduated with a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Washington, D.C. to write about issues related to gambling policy, sports betting and responsible gaming.

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