New York Senate Committee Advances Gaming Bills, Including Boost to State Funding for Problem Gambling

The New York State Senate’s Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committee approved a plan to boost state funding for problem gambling treatment, advancing that bill alongside two others related to gaming. All three bills will now proceed to the Senate floor.

Committee chair Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. kicked off the Tuesday meeting by acknowledging March as Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM). He also welcomed Patricia Lincourt, associate commissioner of Addiction, Treatment, And Recovery Services (ATRS), at New York’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).

Lincourt was on hand to follow the day’s votes with an update detailing her division’s gambling addiction treatment approach.

Age and Advertising Restrictions Advance to Floor

The first bill facing the committee was S1550, sponsored by Sen. Leroy Comrie. The proposed legislation requires all gambling advertisements to include warnings about gambling’s potentially harmful and addictive effects.

Before the committee voted in favor, Addabbo noted the bill had already passed the New York State Assembly twice. He said this was a chance to “advance it in the Senate as well.”

Next up on the docket was Addabbo’s S1557, a seemingly straightforward bill prohibiting those under 21 from gambling on Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).

However, the legislation received pushback from Sen. Pamela Helming, who expressed concern that the bill would also apply to bingo. Addabbo, for his part, said that was not the case, but they would make sure the language was “crystal clear” in the future.

Sen. James Tedisco also voiced disagreement with S1557, questioning whether 18-year-olds should be free to make some big decisions and not others.

There are a whole bunch of responsibilities we give to people who are 18, 19 and 20. You can marry… You can die for your country, as I mentioned. You can vote.

If someone can put their life on the line for the greatest nation in the world and all these other responsibilities, I can’t bring myself to vote for this right now.

However, despite Tedisco and Helming voting against it, S1557 still received enough votes to make it out of committee.

Problem Gambling Funding Boost Finds Easy Support

The final bill, which would allocate 1% of New York’s online sports betting tax revenue to treat problem gambling, sailed through to the Senate floor.

Before the vote, Addabbo, the bill’s sponsor, recognized the New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG) for highlighting the underlying issue. The problem, he said, is that the current legislation caps annual problem gambling funding at $6 million, no matter how high the handle goes.

What we’re doing here is hopefully adding more money to problem gaming programs by making it 1% of the tax revenue, or 6 million, whichever is greater.

Addabbo said if S8439 becomes law, it could add $2.5 million to New York’s problem gambling coffers.

Sen. Helming also spoke in favor of the potential budget boost ahead of the vote.

This is also an opportunity because the revenues are so much greater than anyone anticipated to earmark some funding stream for mental health services for schools. It’s desperately needed.

Extra Funds Would Aid Prevention, Recovery Programs

With the voting wrapped up, OASAS’s Lincourt offered the committee insight into her department’s approach to problem gambling treatment.

OASAS’s ATRS division, explained Lincourt, works directly with the NYCPG, the Responsible Play Partnership (RPP), and regional resource centers. The department’s primary focus, Lincourt added, is to use prevalence data to target messaging to New Yorkers most at risk of problem gambling harm.

According to a 2020 prevalence survey, nearly 4.4% of adults in New York State are at risk of developing a gambling problem. Further, men between 18 and 24 are most at risk, particularly Black men and those with incomes below $30,000. People with substance abuse issues were also overrepresented.

The division, said Lincourt, plans to implement ongoing prevalence surveys to monitor trends and changes over time. Additionally, ATRS hired an outside researcher to perform a gap analysis to help better focus the division’s efforts.

The department is also developing credentials so those with lived experience can better help others with gambling problems.

Considering S8439, Addabbo asked Lincourt where she expects the influx of additional funding to be spent.

Lincourt said those extra dollars would likely span several areas, particularly prevention and building capacity for peer-to-peer recovery.

In several areas, in particular prevention, to increase our prevention efforts. Because that is where you want to interrupt it.

On the recovery side, to build that group of peers. The dollars could support the training and bringing people through that process of gaining that credential.

About the Author

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil (she/they) is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor, and a lead writer at Bonus. Here she focuses on news relevant to online casinos, while specializing in responsible gambling coverage, legislative developments, gambling regulations, and industry-related legal fights.
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