Governor Kathleen C. Hochul has made it official that March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) in New York. Dr. Chinazo O. Cunningham, the commissioner of the state’s Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS), delivered the formal proclamation on the Governor’s behalf.
Cunningham spoke during a joint media conference held by New York State’s Responsible Play Partnership (RPP) and the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). The RPP is a decade-old tripartite organization formed to address problem gambling in New York State.
Wrapping up the event, Cunningham read from Hochul’s proclamation:
During this month, individuals, professionals, and organizations throughout New York State are called upon to renew their shared commitment to educating the public about problem gambling, the effectiveness of prevention efforts, and the availability of treatment services. So that hope for recovery reaches people in communities across the state.
NY Problem Gambling Efforts Take the Spotlight
As part of the Friday event at the Javitz Center in Manhattan, the speakers drew attention to existing efforts to combat problem gambling in the state.
The conference also marked the 20th anniversary of National Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM).
In addition to Cunningham, attendees heard from other members of the RPP and the NCPG:
- Robert Williams, executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission
- Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, and
- Keith Whyte, NCPG executive director
Together, the speakers called attention to the state’s efforts and programs to combat problem gambling.
Some of the initiatives touted include:
- Requiring robust responsible gambling (RG) plans in commercial casino bids
- New York’s statewide self-exclusion policy
- RG training for New York Lottery retailers
- United States’ first-ever RG QR code
- Public service announcements and events
- Requiring RG messaging and the Hopeline number in all sports betting advertising
- Training for prevention specialists, individuals, and families
- Youth-focused responsible gambling education
- Access to support via private practitioners, outpatient programs, and state treatment centers
No Movement on NY Problem Gambling Advisory Council Bill
Notably, none of the speakers mentioned the proposed New York Problem Gambling Advisory Council.
The bill to establish the council currently sits with the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
New York lawmakers have proposed a PGAC in nine different years. Hochul vetoed the most recent attempt last year over the cost.
However, three New York State Assembly members sponsored a new effort to create one in January.
If it passes, A1056 will amend the mental hygiene law to create the PGAC. Once operational, the council would “make findings and recommendations” to the governor and legislature on problem gambling treatment and prevention.
Assembly members Linda B. Rosenthal, Al Stirpe, and Jonathan G. Jacobson introduced the new legislation. However, the 2-page bill doesn’t outline how to fund the proposed PGAC.
Addabbo: RG Crucial to Legal Gambling Expansion
In a statement issued to the media after Friday’s conference, state Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., D-Ozone Park, referenced the importance of responsible gambling to legal gambling expansion in New York.
It is crucial that as we seek to legally and credibly expand gaming in New York that we also grow our problem gaming resources.
Addabbo, an advocate of legal gambling expansion, introduced a bill to legalize New York online casino gambling in February. Currently, bill S4856 is with the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Racing, Gaming, and Wagering. (Of note, Addabbo is the committee chairman.)
Addabbo recently said if his bill doesn’t make it into New York’s budget, the push is over until next year. Currently, it’s down to the wire as his iGaming bill is under review in Albany this weekend.
Regardless of what happens with New York online casinos in the short term, RG is vital to the long game.
Addabbo said in a statement:
We want to start looking at problem gaming as not just an addiction issue, but digging deeper than that and seeing it as a mental health issue.
When we see gambling addiction as a mental health issue, we can find new ways to treat it and provide more people with not just help, but hope.
Addabbo ended by thanking the RPP and NCPG for hosting the conference and educating New Yorkers.
I look forward to continuing our work together to raise awareness of problem gaming in New York.