With the ongoing expansion of sports betting and other types of legal gambling, those in New York who like to gamble have many options.
In the near future, legal online gambling may come to the Empire State as well. Amid all of this growth, however, it is important both for providers and patrons to remain aware of the importance of responsible gambling.
Gambling can be fun and entertaining when done appropriately and with a full understanding of the risks involved. It can also be devastating for individuals who are unable to observe limits or are prone to behaviors indicative of problem gambling.
What follows is a discussion of responsible gambling, including an explanation of what constitutes problem gambling and some resources for New Yorkers who need help.
“Responsible gambling” might sound like a non-specific, catch-all slogan meant to reinforce the general advice that gamblers need to take responsibility for their actions.
However, within the industry, the concept guides gambling providers as well as those charged with writing and enforcing the rules of legal gambling.
Think of responsible gambling as a kind of goal that everyone involved in gambling should try to attain.
In other words, it applies both to those who place the bets and to those who accept them. Those who gamble should strive to do so responsibly; those who provide gambling opportunities to others should do so in a socially responsible way, as well.
People who bet on sports, play slots or other casino games, wager on horse races or engage in other types of gambling need to understand the risks involved. Gamblers should never risk money they cannot afford to lose. Nor should they ever allow the fun or entertainment of gambling to cause harm to themselves or others.
For those who gamble, some tips for responsible gambling include:
For gambling operators, some tips to create conditions for responsible gambling include:
When does gambling become a problem? That can be a difficult question to answer, especially for the person for whom gambling has become problematic.
Some who have treated problem gambling prefer “compulsive gambling” as a more accurate term. Oftentimes those who suffer from problem gambling feel compelled to gamble, much as someone addicted to drugs or alcohol cannot avoid what is often self-destructive behavior.
But problem gambling doesn’t just cover extreme examples. Problem gambling refers to any instance of gambling that creates negative consequences affecting the gambler’s personal health or well-being, family, relationships or employment.
The effects can range from relatively minor inconveniences to especially destructive outcomes including the loss of one’s savings or the creation of insurmountable debt (and subsequently negative consequences).
It can be difficult to detect problem gambling, either in oneself or in a friend or family member. There generally are no outward signs or foolproof indicators of problem gambling. There can be observable symptoms, however, including:
There are numerous resources in New York for those seeking information about responsible gambling and problem gambling:
The NYCPG is a nonprofit corporation focused on increasing public awareness of problem gambling and advocating for support services designed to help those affected by it.
Based in Albany, the NYCPG helps administer regional Problem Gambling Resource Centers throughout the state that provide information and services. The group sponsors workshops and webinars, hosts an annual conference, and provides a wealth of resources for those seeking information and assistance.
The council also helps train those involved with administering other types of rehabilitation programs, teaching them how to understand problem gambling and help those affected by it.
The New York State HOPEline is a 24/7 toll-free, confidential hotline where problem gamblers, as well as those with chemical dependencies, can find assistance. The multilingual staff can provide support, make referrals and connect callers with a wide range of resources.
The HOPEline phone number is 1-877-8-HOPENY. Residents can also text HOPENY directly.
The New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports provides information and resources for problem gamblers alongside similar services for those suffering from drug and alcohol dependency or other forms of addiction. The website includes a great deal of information related to the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.
Besides overseeing legal gambling in the state, the New York State Gaming Commission also provides a wealth of information and resources via its responsible gambling page.
Voluntary self-exclusion is commonly used to help problem gamblers avoid dangerous situations. As the name implies, it involves gamblers voluntarily banning themselves from visiting a gambling facility or an online gambling site.
New Yorkers can voluntarily self-exclude from all forms of gambling for which the New York State Gaming Commission provides oversight. This includes all commercial casino gambling, legal horse racing and off-track betting, and gambling on licensed video lottery games.
Individuals can exclude themselves for one year, three years, five years or for life. Doing so involves requesting a form from the commission and then completing and returning it. If submitted by mail, the form needs to be notarized with an accompanying photograph. No one can fill out the form for someone else.
Individuals can also self-exclude in person at licensed gambling facilities throughout the state, including at New York’s commercial casinos.
The state’s tribal casinos provide their own voluntary self-exclusion programs, usually administered through the tribes. Those wishing to self-exclude from any of the state’s tribal casinos are advised to contact the tribe’s gambling commission for information.
To trigger a voluntary self-exclusion through the state:
The player information is shared with land-based betting locations and online DFS providers statewide, so players who self-exclude can be identified and blocked if they attempt to play within their chosen exclusion period.
Playing privileges are automatically reinstated at the end of the selected self-exclusion term, except in the case of lifetime self-exclusions.
In addition to the statewide self-exclusion program, some licensed gambling locations like Nassau OTB offer a voluntary self-exclusion program for that gambling venue only. People who voluntary self-exclude with Nassau OTB are barred from all Nassau OTB locations and cannot own a Nassau OTB wagering account.
Unlike with statewide self-exclusion, it is possible to reinstate gambling privileges at Nassau OTB any time by submitting a reinstatement form. However, there is a seven-day waiting period after Nassau OTB receives the form.
In February 2019, the New York state comptroller’s office released a report about an audit of the problem gambling services offered by the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) in the state.
The key findings of the report revealed that OASAS had not conducted an assessment of problem gambling in the state, including the number of problem gamblers and their locations, since 2006.
This is significant because, after 2006, four large commercial casinos opened in the state, VLTs were introduced at racetracks and other gambling facilities and online daily fantasy sports betting was rolled out.
There have been no impact studies or resource assessments that address how more access to gambling may be affecting New York communities.
Only 22 of New York’s 62 counties offer OASAS gambling treatment programs, leaving a majority of 40 counties without OASAS treatment coverage.
In some areas, travel times to treatment centers can be prohibitive. Further, OASAS has not conducted an assessment of what treatment options are available outside of its system and the costs.
The report recommended that OASAS conduct updated needs assessments and social impact studies to help ensure that gambling treatment resources are appropriately established, targeted and available to all New York residents.
OASAS officials agreed with the findings and recommendations of the report, citing a lack of funding for updated studies and associated treatment programs. You can read the full report here.
There are also a number of national organizations dedicated to promoting responsible gambling and assisting those whose lives are being negatively affected by problem gambling.
The National Council on Problem Gambling is an organization that supports programs and services to assist individuals and families affected by problem gambling throughout the country.
Those in New York can contact the NCPG’s National Problem Gambling Helpline Network at 1-800-522-4700 in order to receive help finding local resources. Individuals can call or text the NCPG, and all communications are confidential. There is also 24/7 chat available at the NCPG website.
The International Center for Responsible Gambling (formerly known as the National Center for Responsible Gambling) is an American nonprofit organization focused on funding research on gambling addiction.
The group provides various responsible gambling programs designed to educate the public about gambling-related disorders and the harms that gambling addiction can cause.
The ICRG is affiliated with the American Gaming Association.
Founded in 1957, Gamblers Anonymous was originally patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, including highlighting a 12-step program to help problem gamblers rehabilitate themselves. Gamblers Anonymous sponsors a number of programs as well as GA meetings at which those with gambling problems can seek assistance.
The GA website contains a much-recommended list of 20 yes-or-no questions that can help a person address the larger question, “Are you a compulsive gambler?” Visitors can answer the questions right on the website and receive feedback regarding their answers.
GA also offers help via a phone hotline specific to those in New York. For most of the state, the hotline number is 1-855-222-5542. In Albany, call 1-518-292-0414.
Affiliated with Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon is a New York-based organization focused primarily on helping families and others affected by problem gamblers. Like GA, Gam-Anon follows a “fellowship” model of mutual assistance with meetings and other programs.
GamTalk is another organization dedicated to helping provide resources to those affected by problem gambling. Besides providing self-help tools and other programs (including a podcast), GamTalk’s website features online chat rooms where members of the GamTalk community can regularly meet and receive help.
The rise of legal online gambling has introduced additional challenges for gambling providers to remain vigilant against. It has also provided more avenues for problem gamblers to get themselves into trouble.
Proponents of gambling have understandably expressed frustration with lawmakers blocking new online gambling bills with sensational anecdotes of online gambling leading to destructive consequences. “Click a mouse and lose your house” has been a frequently used slogan to underscore such horror stories.
That said, for some problem gamblers, having an online option available to them can be especially dangerous. All responsible gambling efforts and measures equally apply whether a person is gambling in a retail casino or at home over the internet.
But some discover it much more difficult to self-monitor their behavior when gambling online. When betting online, they find it more difficult to observe limits, take breaks and keep emotions from overruling logic. Even those who typically don’t exhibit signs of problem gambling in a casino can fall into bad habits when gambling online.
Much as casinos tend to provide information about responsible gambling and resources to those suffering from problem gambling, online gambling sites also generally provide similar assistance and tools. For example, many operators allow players to set daily, weekly and monthly deposit limits, or provide other means to limit their time on the sites.
New York has yet to legalize online gambling. If and when it does, expect gambling sites to be required to support detailed responsible gambling initiatives.
Gambling is an especially popular recreation among adults. Like other legal “vices,” gambling is enjoyed by many without serious consequences.
Those who enjoy positive gambling experiences usually gamble in moderation, always being careful about risks and never allowing gambling to cause harm to themselves or others.
However, just like with those other activities, gambling isn’t for everyone. It is important for everyone involved to practice responsible gambling and to remain aware of signs of problem gambling.
Take advantage of the resources that are available. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if problem gambling is harming you or someone you know.