A technological advance will help state agencies and advocacy groups combat problem gambling in New York.
But the state needs more funding and infrastructure as gaming expands in the Empire State at a rapid pace.
In recent weeks, the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC), Office of Addiction Services (OASAS) and Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG) have visited gaming facilities in the state to promote responsible gambling. The trio of entities comprises New York’s Responsible Play Partnership (RPP).
Signage featuring the first-ever Quick Response (QR) code recently debuted at Resorts World Catskills and MGM Empire City gaming facilities.
The QR code enables problem gamblers to connect with locally trained professionals in real-time. You simply need to point your phone camera at the code. The phone will ask if you would like to open a link to the website NYProblemGamblingHelp.org.
New Yorkers have been utilizing QR codes
According to an NYSGC release, the QR code has logged more than 2,500 total scans and more than 600 unique scans since its launch in January.
NYCPG executive director Jim Maney told PlayNY:
“We’re going to have to deliver services 24/7 now. We can’t have those calls going to voicemail. They have to be answered right away, 24/7, by passionate people who are going to connect people who need help to assistance right away.
“The QR code is a great concept. Now we just need the infrastructure to help folks that call at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, whatever time — not just during daylight hours.”
The QR codes are at a variety of places:
- New York Lottery scratch-off tickets
- Promotional screens at nearly 15,000 lottery retail outlets statewide
- Online sports betting promotional mailings
- Complementary messaging on all 18-plus age verification signage posted at horse racetracks
- Digital signage on gaming floors at video lottery gaming facilities and commercial casinos
NY gaming increase means more problem gamblers
Legal online sports betting launched in New York in January. And the acceleration of three downstate casino licenses was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul as part of the final NYS budget.
Sen. Joe Addabbo and Assemb. Gary Pretlow will also continue to push for NY online casino gaming to be a part of next year’s state budget. Gaming expansion, while significant for educational funding via tax revenue, will inevitably lead to an increase in problem gambling.
NYSGC executive director Rob Williams said in a statement:
“As the gaming arena continues to expand across New York State, the commission and our partners are committed to making gaming safe and responsible for all. We are united in working together to make sure that individuals who need help have access to the necessary tools and resources in a timely manner.”
Roundtable: Allocate $6 million in problem gambling funds
On May 16, a roundtable discussion will feature the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee — chaired by Addabbo — OASAS and NYPGC. The discussion will surround how to utilize the $6 million in funding for problem gambling services generated by sports betting.
That $6 million represents less than 1% of state tax revenue from NY online sports betting. NYCPG had called for 3% — or about $20 million — to provide proper resources for problem gamblers. Maney said:
“We’ll continue to push for that. The addition of online casino gaming could add $11 million to problem gambling services.”
Based on projections, Maney said this could become the most profitable year ever for state-sponsored gambling in NY.
“That means more New Yorkers are losing money every day, so we definitely need to find a way to make sure that we have all the programs in place for treatment, education, public awareness and prevention.”
However, more work remains. Education for responsible gambling in New York is imperative.
“I think we have a little bit of everything, but we need to have more,” Maney said, adding that the state needs to do more outreach and connect with underserved populations. “We really need to get into the trenches and get the word out there. We need to reduce the stigma.”