With New York set to reconsider legalization of iGaming and iLottery in 2024, appropriate resources for responsible gambling treatment and prevention services are expected to be key topics of concern in a state where more than 600,000 adults are experiencing addiction issues.
The number translates into 4.3 percent of adult residents in the state, according to statistics from the New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG).
“This will be our priority going forward: responsible gaming,” said New York state Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., a Democrat and chairman of the New York Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering.
Addabbo said he and his colleagues boosted state funding for problem gambling services by $6m and added 12 safety measures and protocols with regard to gaming addiction when mobile sports betting was legalized in 2021.
But advocates for treatment and prevention believe that funding should be based on a percentage of revenue instead.
Prior to the sports-betting bill’s passage, the NYCPG lobbied to replace the $6m cap with 3 percent of state tax revenue from mobile sports betting, which would put funding closer to $21m based on 2022 revenues reported by mobile sportsbook platforms.
Addabbo described the NYCPG’s input as invaluable with helping to modify the language of the bill and getting the $6m from mobile sports-betting to fund problem gambling services.
“We will certainly reach out to you again as we possibly look to expand going forward,” Addabbo said during a webinar last week to recognize the American Gaming Association's Responsible Gaming Education Month, as well as Recovery Month.
“When we do these pieces of legislation, I think it is really important that we get this kind of input.”
Addabbo was joined for the hour-long webinar by Scott Meyer, a certified peer recovery advocate with the NYCPG, and Rachel Lauria, director of the NYCPG’s bureau of treatment and recovery.
“One of the biggest things for me, there seemed to be no protections in place for gamblers,” Meyer said when asked by Vixio GamblingCompliance about what he would like to see in any iGaming or iLottery bill that is considered by the state legislature next year.
Meyer said the access to gaming has become more prevalent as a result of technological advances. He stressed that New York and other states need to “allocate dollars to treatment and prevention, like significant dollars not a small percentage.”
Meyer also urged lawmakers to restrict advertising in any future gaming legislation, in a similar way to the restrictions placed on tobacco advertisements.
A federal law that went into effect in January 1971 required warnings on all cigarette packages and banned cigarette advertising on television and radio.
Federal law also restricts magazine and billboard advertising for tobacco products, such as prohibiting any outdoor billboard advertisement located within 1,000 feet of any public or private elementary school, junior high school, or high school, or public playground.
“Stop the advertising. If someone wants to gamble, they are going to gamble. If someone wants to smoke, they are going to smoke,” said Meyer, who has dealt with his own journey with gambling addiction.
“You’ll never hear me say don’t gamble,” he added. “The words will never come out of my mouth. But recognize that problem gambling is the issue."
Lauria agreed with Meyer’s comments, adding that there should be dedicated funding to counter advertising messages put forward by gambling operators.
“We know the industry has a lot of dollars to run media campaigns and to advertise their products but in the world of prevention, treatment and recovery we have small budgets for advertising in addition to the other work we are doing,” she said.
“Because gambling has been so normalized, and part of that is through advertising, we need to normalize getting help as well as making sure people understand that help is available. Counter advertising would make it so people would know it’s not just me and it is [alright] to get help.”
Lauria declined to estimate any potential increase in the percentage of New York residents who would experience gambling addition issues from legalizing iGaming or iLottery beyond saying, “they know that where access and availability increase, we tend to see greater numbers of people experiencing gambling harm.”
Addabbo said he believed that the $2,500 annual limit on the use of credit cards to fund sports-wagering accounts will carry over to any iGaming or iLottery legislation. Although credit card spending is limited in New York, this limitation does not apply to other payment methods or debit cards.
He told webinar attendees that once a gambler hits that limit, their credit card is frozen and then the player is contacted by someone at the sportsbook operator tracking their play to make sure they are not suffering from compulsive play.
“So capping credit card usage on accounts, I feel is very important,” the veteran state senator said.
Addabbo said the issue of advertising came up during the debate over mobile sports betting, and “that’s something we are looking at in the iGaming legislation.”
He added that any iGaming or iLottery legislation will include additional funding for problem gambling treatment and prevention.
“It’s not how much we spend for addiction programs,” Addabbo said. “It is how we spend it. I think it is crucial to make sure these monies go to programs that work.”
See also: New York Q&A: Sports Betting