A New York lawmaker is resurrecting the Problem Gambling Advisory Council (PGAC) concept, introducing a bill on May 5 to form a responsible gambling body. SB6701 is the fifth legislative attempt at creating a PGAC. Members of the New York State Legislature have introduced a PGAC bill during each legislative session since 2015.
On Friday, state Sen. Nathalia Fernandez, D-Bronx, introduced SB6701. It would amend the mental hygiene law to create the PGAC.
The bill referred to the Senate Alcoholism And Substance Use Disorders Committee has a month to be approved in the Senate and Assembly before the legislature adjourns. Its companion bill in the New York State Assembly, AB1056, hasn’t moved from that chamber’s identically named standing committee since its introduction on Jan. 13.
However, Fernandez sponsored SB6701 after lawmakers passed the state budget, which is the primary way bills become law in New York.
New York’s Legal Gambling Expansion Justifies the PGAC
SB6701 amplifies the already vigorous discussion about funding responsible gaming efforts as legal gambling expands in New York.
On Jan. 8, 2022, New York online sports betting launched. Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul noted sports bettors wagered more than $16 billion during the first year of legal sportsbooks.
On Thursday, state lawmakers gathered to celebrate the opening day of horse racing at a track that will see significant investment. State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., D-Ozone Park, said Belmont Park in Elmont is receiving a “historic” $455 million loan in this year’s state budget. With it, Belmont Park can add “new thoroughbred racing facilities.”
Right now, a board appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) is considering which applications to approve for three downstate New York retail casino licenses. The winners in the months-long process that began in January will need to pay a $500 million license fee and outlay a “minimum capital investment” of $500 million.
Fernandez noted the four upstate predecessors to the latter in her bill’s justification:
New York continues to expand its existing gaming market with the addition of up to four new casinos, which could increase significantly the risk of more individuals developing a gambling problem.
It is evident that there is a growing need to promote awareness of and access to problem gambling services. The development of a Problem Gambling Advisory Council will help to identify issues affecting those suffering from a problem gambling disorder and recommend ways to make prevention and treatment more accessible throughout the state.
Problem Gambling Advisory Council Bill Almost Became Law
Last year’s PGAC measure came close to becoming law, only needing the governor’s signature.
The measure sponsored by Fernandez’s predecessor, the former state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, received approval from both state legislature chambers by June 2, 2022.
However, Gov. Kathleen C. Hochul vetoed the bill on Nov. 23, 2022.
Problem Gambling Gains Attention As Hochul Vetoes PGAC
Coincidentally, Hochul’s veto came days after state lawmakers decided to ramp up their concern about problem gambling. New York lawmakers were about to react to articles published by The New York Times on Nov. 20, 2022.
Online gambling industry leaders called the articles biased.
However, lawmakers and regulators were listening to the criticism of the legal online gambling industry.
State Sen. Peter B. Harckham, D-Lewisboro, cited the Times coverage in the justification for his Nov. 30, 2022, bill “to promulgate rules and regulations regarding predatory sportsbook bonuses in mobile sports betting.”
Industry officials have cited their voluntary support for anti-addiction resources as proof that they can be trusted to operate without stricter government rules, but more safeguards must be put in place as this reporting has illustrated these predatory practices are triggering a spike in gambling addiction.
That was just the beginning.
A few highlights of the subsequent problem gambling discussion include:
- On Jan. 12, 2023, state Sen. Leroy Comrie, D-St. Albans, sponsored SB1550. The bill “requires all advertisements for gambling and sports betting to include warnings about potential harmful and addictive effects of gambling.”
- On Jan. 26, 2023, an Assembly bill – AB2624 – debuted to establish “the legislative task force on online sports betting.”
- On Feb. 27, the NYSGC voted to increase ad regulation on New York sportsbooks.
- On March 10, Hochul formally proclaimed March Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM). That happened during a meeting of the New York Responsible Play Partnership (NYRPP) – which includes the NYSGC, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), and the New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG). The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) joined the news conference in Manhattan.
Legislators haven’t voted on any of the bills.
Also, in March, Addabbo’s iGaming bill that would’ve added New York to the seven legal US online casino states failed to make it into the state budget.