Legal online sports betting launched in New York on Jan. 8. A bill currently sits with the New York State Senate Finance Committee that would enable fixed-odds horse racing on the betting apps. It would also allow kiosks at stadiums, arenas and racetracks in the state. Local policymakers look to expedite licenses for three downstate casinos. And Sen. Joe Addabbo just introduced a bill that would authorize iGaming.
The expansion of legal gaming continues in New York. As that happens, it becomes more crucial to remember the importance of responsible gambling in NY and emphasizing the resources available to those who suffer from problem gambling.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. And the New York Council on Problem Gambling is doing its part to acknowledge that.
“We’re going to use Problem Gambling Awareness Month to continue to raise the awareness of problem gambling in the state of New York,” NYCPG executive director Jim Maney said. “And we have a bunch of things highlighted that we’re doing — Screening Day where we’re asking multiple partners to start screening their clients for problem gambling. We have an annual conference on March 9-10. We have a few of the landmarks in New York being lit up on March 8 — everywhere from Niagara Falls to the Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge.
“I guess we’re trying to make this month really impactful especially as there’s so much attention to mobile sports betting and the expansion that’s going on in New York State — the three casinos possibly, iGaming, etc.”
NYCPG Problem Gambling Awareness Month plans, goals for 2022
The NYCPG is planning a variety of events during the month. Each aims to help bring awareness to problem gambling and help those in need.
That includes several noteworthy events in March, including:
- Open Gamblers Anonymous Meeting via Zoom, March 6
- Gambling Disorder Screening Day, March 8
- Shine the Light Night, March 8
- NYCPG Annual Conference, March 9-10
- Shine the Light Rally, March 10
Those interested can find more details on each event, as well as additional information, on the NYCPG website.
On top of that, Maney outlined what the NYCPG would like to accomplish in 2022:
- A division of problem gambling in the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).
- Every time we talk about gambling, we talk about problem gambling.
- A 24/7 helpline solely for problem gambling
- There should not be a cost of treatment for problem gamblers and their families. (One of the biggest barriers to getting treatment is having to pay a co-pay.)
NYCPG needs more funding
The NYCPG would like to receive 3% of state revenue from mobile sports betting to go to problem gambling services. Currently, it is less than 1%, per the NYCPG.
Problem gambling services expect to receive an additional $6 million in funding for 2022. But the organization believes $20 million would more adequately address its needs.
Call frequency to the OASAS HOPEline increased 46% year over year in January 2022 following the launch of legal online sports betting in NY.
“We need everything. It needs to be a whole infrastructure,” Maney said. “Currently, there’s only $5.7 million (in funding) — and that’s going to to be up on top of (the additional) $6 million. When you think about the substance abuse system in the state of New York, the budget for OASAS is going to be like $1.5 billion this year.
“What the council wants to do is make sure that problem gamblers and their families get the same services throughout the state of New York that other addictions have. We definitely need more prevention, we need more public awareness, we need more treatment dollars and we need some more research being done on this issue. We do a little bit of all of those things, but we don’t do enough of all those things.”
Collective incentive to limit problem gambling in NY
Addabbo has acknowledged the importance of problem gambling services.
A release from his office emphasized the $6 million in funding. In addition, brick-and-mortar gaming sites train employees to recognize warning signs of problem gaming. Employees also learn how to help patrons with symptoms of gaming addiction. Online sportsbooks in New York allow customers to self-exclude from gaming as well as limit their wagers.
New York sportsbooks are required to freeze accounts and alert any user who exceeds $2,500 in lifetime deposits. This also comes with problem gaming resource information. According to the release, “sportsbooks must inform customers about assistance for compulsive play while maintaining easy-to-find gaming assistance resources.”
“We cannot move forward with gaming in New York without addressing the addiction side at the same time,” Addabbo said in a statement. “I want to see gaming flourish even further in our state, thus increasing educational funding, revenue and jobs, but we must have safeguards and help in place for those that have a problem. I look forward to working with those in the gaming addiction filed to provide New Yorkers with the best help and resources.”
Always emphasize problem gambling awareness
Ultimately, as the expansion and advertising for various forms of gambling in the state continue, Maney wants to continue counteracting that with awareness around problem gambling.
That means encouraging operators not to use the term “risk-free bets” (there’s no such thing, Maney says). It means starting children early on gambling education (the National Council on Problem Gambling says 10 years old is appropriate).
“Nobody is for problem gambling,” Maney said. “Nobody wants people to lose their houses and their families. People (local policymakers, members of the NYSGC) have different views on gambling, but we’re all together on the issue of problem gambling.”