Most researchers estimate that over 50 million American adults gamble every year. While most people who gamble in the United States can win (or lose) money without creating trouble for themselves, that is not the case for everyone. Research shows that problem gamblers number between one and two percent of the population.
Each state where gambling is legalized have programs to treat problem gamblers within their state. In fact, most states where gambling is legal have laws that take a percentage of gambling revenue and funnel it into programs for problem gamblers. In New York, however, no one is sure how many problem gamblers there are, and what programs they need. The state comptroller’s office wants to change that.
Gambling in New York
New York currently has 25 casinos in the state. Of these casinos, about half of the casinos are Indian casinos, and the other half is either racinos tied to racetracks or traditional casinos. The state earns hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. In addition to the casinos, New York also has a lottery, both in state and multistate. Bingo parlors for charity are also allowed to operate in New York. Sports gambling, which is legal in neighboring New Jersey, is not legal in New York.
The State Comptroller’s Report
The state comptroller’s report has stated that the New York Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse has not assessed services for gambling addiction since 2006. The office oversees research and programs into gambling and addictive behavior.
The comptroller expressed dismay about the number of years that have gone by since the state has assessed the needs of problem gamblers. For example, four new commercial casinos have opened up around the state since the needs of problem gamblers were assessed. While most of the casinos were located in Northern New York, one of the casinos is close to New York City. This means that casinos in New York need to be prepared to help problem gamblers. State programs will also need to change for problem gamblers.
In addition, the Comptroller noted that while the New York Legislature has not approved sports gambling, the state needed to prepare itself, because it will be coming in the future.
What the Comptroller Recommended
The comptroller had several recommendations for the state. First, the state needs to undertake a comprehensive study of the needs of problem gamblers in New York. Not only does the state need to be involved, but also so do the casinos. Casinos in other areas of the United States have been able to express concerns about problem gamblers, and help to arrange programs to help problem gamblers to stay away.
In addition, the comptroller’s office recommended that casinos and addiction services work towards establishing a self-exclusion ban from casinos that could be enforced. Many states have self-exclusion bans. In these states, problem gamblers can register to be automatically banned from casinos. If a banned person tries to enter the casino, he or she will be turned away.
The comptroller’s office noted there are 20 outpatient programs and 13 private programs throughout the state to target gambling. However, 40 of 62 counties in New York do not have any programs. In some areas with no programs, gamblers would have to travel a great distance to get help. Some of the counties without a treatment program have gambling facilities, such as a casino or a racetrack.
For some gamblers, the office suggested that the state may want to work with practitioners in the area to create private programs counselors and therapists can use. These programs would be available to the problem gambler where they live, so they do not have to travel hours to get the help they need.
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