New York Responsible Gambling Tops Addabbo’s Agenda

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New York responsible gambling (RG) efforts getting funding matters to state Sen. Joseph Addabbo as much as legalizing online casino gambling. So RG and problem gambling are on his 2023 agenda, Addabbo tells Bonus.

Addabbo, D-Ozone Park, is the member of the New York State Senate who sponsored last year’s New York online casino legalization effort. He plans to do the same this year.

However, he told Bonus gambling expansion can’t happen without addressing problem gambling, too.

He said:

It is critical.

That’s quite a statement to make this year, as a board appointed by the New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) considers applicants for three Downstate New York retail casino licenses.

In other words, legal gambling expansion is already happening.

What Responsible Gambling Funding May Look Like

The New York online sports betting marketplace that launched on Jan. 8, 2022, does outline $6 million to address problem gambling. However, Addabbo told Bonus he wanted to increase the amount in the New York online casino and poker gambling bill that now calls for $11 million in funding.

Meanwhile, that $6 million from sports betting is just a fraction of the $638,489,748 in tax revenue that NY Sports Day reports the online sportsbooks generated from Jan. 8 to Dec. 25.

So Addabbo would like to see the New York State Legislature sit down and discuss problem gambling.

While the state does “already have a mechanism” in place to address problem gambling, the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) could use more help, he said.

For instance, Addabbo told Bonus he wanted to talk to OASAS Commissioner Chinazo Cunningham about adding 24-hour live access to problem gambling assistance, as well as peer-to-peer counseling.

Plus, Addabbo emphasizes the need for problem gambling prevention, which he calls “pre-addiction.”

He told Bonus:

That pre-addiction phase is really important.

Bonus emailed questions today to the OASIS press liaison, who didn’t respond.

Another Senator Believes Current Law Must Change

In a proposal that Addabbo terms “raising awareness” about problem gambling, another Senator is challenging the current mobile sports betting law.

On Friday, state Sen. Peter B. Harckham‘s communications director, Tom Staudter, informed Bonus that Harckham would reintroduce his “predatory sportsbook bonuses” bill. As of today, Harckham, D-Lewisboro, hasn’t added S9605 to the 2023 agenda.

Harckham’s proposed legislation is a reaction to Nov. 20 coverage in The New York Times. One of the many aspects of the online gambling industry the Times covered was problem gambling efforts.

Harckham was more interested in alleged problematic behavior among online gambling operators.

When Harckham introduced the 1-page bill on Nov. 30, its justification read, in part:

The mobile sports betting industry is utilizing targeted advertising that is personally tailored to lure in new customers from right within their homes. This means that following legal sports betting in New York State, multitudes of people who were not formerly presented with these predatory practices will fall susceptible to gambling addiction that could have otherwise been avoided.

Years of New York Responsible Gambling Bills

While Harckham is working on amending current law to fix problems, other New York responsible gambling proposals create new solutions.

However, during the Bonus interview with Addabbo, it didn’t sound like he would try to resurrect any version of S409. That bill establishing a Problem Gambling Advisory Council (PGAC) reached Gov. Kathy C. Hochul‘s desk last year.

When Hochul vetoed the PGAC bill on Nov. 23, 2022, she provided a global statement at the end of the document.

On Page 196, Hochul wrote, in part:

These thirty-nine bills would establish various commissions and task forces touching nearly every aspect of state government. Several of the bills would require intensive studies and reports to be undertaken by state agencies and authorities. I share a strong interest in addressing the problems and issues identified in this legislation, and I commend the Legislature for seeking to address such a broad array of problems.

However, enactment of this package of legislation would collectively cost the State approximately forty million dollars. None of these costs are accounted for in the State Financial Plan. Without appropriate funding, these unbudgeted costs would create significant staffing and other programmatic burdens on state agencies. Additionally, because of the ongoing work of state agencies and authorities, a number of the proposals would result in duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy.

PGACs Are Hard Sells to Legislators

New York legislators first proposed creating a PGAC in 2015, a little after the NYSGC granted four full commercial casino licenses for Upstate New York gaming facilities. (Once the board appointed by the commission picks three applicants this year for the Downstate New York casinos, it will complete the seven full licenses the state will allow.)

The House and Senate finally approved a New York PGAC in June 2022. Hochul vetoed it on Nov. 23, 2022.

However, Hochul isn’t the only lawmaker to kill such an idea.

In April 2022, Kentucky Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, watched a bill he sponsored to create a “problem gambling assistance fund” not even go to a vote.

Koenig wanted to use $225 million deposited into the general fund from a PokerStars settlement, rather than diverting tax revenue or involving some other funding mechanism. He’d also proposed legalizing online poker and sports betting. All of those measures failed last year. Koenig also lost reelection.

While his colleagues resurrected the Kentucky online poker and sportsbook legalization bill, they haven’t touched RG.

Consequently, online gambling operators have RG programs, state and national nonprofits have missions to help problem gamblers, and state agencies work to address the issue. Yet problem gambling treatment seems to remain underfunded.

Perhaps that won’t be the case in New York if Addabbo is successful.

About the Author
Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is the lead writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She had her first published byline at age 10, but didn't get paid for her writing until she got her first newspaper job. Fletcher's newspaper career started at Suburban News Publications in Ohio and eventually took her to The New York Times, where she's still a contract freelance reporter for the National Desk. She covers breaking news from Philadelphia, as needed. In March 2021, Fletcher began writing about online casino gambling as the lead writer for Online Poker Report.

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