The New York State Comptroller is the latest official to call for a comprehensive study on problem gambling in the Empire State.
In an audit released this week, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) has insufficiently studied treatment programs for problem gamblers.
“The agency is taking steps to expand problem gambling services, but it has not done enough to assess the impact of casinos on addiction or ensured enough treatment programs exist,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
“Especially given the recent expansion of legal gambling,” DiNapoli says OASAS needs to undertake a comprehensive needs assessment or social impact study to specify the number and locations of problem gamblers in need of treatment. The last study was done in 2006.
Currently, OASAS provides services through 20 outpatient programs, six inpatient treatment centers, and the Queens Center for Excellence, which provides education and treatment at 13 private providers in Queens County. A telephone line provides referrals for callers.
However, 40 of the state’s 62 counties do not have an OASAS problem gambling treatment program. Neither does OASAS have a list of alternative providers – or their location.
The new audit was released shortly after Assembly member Linda Rosenthal (D- Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, submitted a bill calling for a similar study.
As New York considers and continues expanding gambling venues and opportunities statewide, we must similarly ensure that we provide New Yorkers struggling with gambling addiction with supportive treatment opportunities,” Rosenthal said in a statement this week to Casino.org.
Her Assembly Bill, A00591, calls upon Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez of OASAS to commission a statewide evaluation on the extent of gambling and its subsequent financial impact on New York State residents.
“As we expand and modernize gambling, so too must we expand and modernize our gambling treatment infrastructure,” Rosenthal said.
The topics studied would include the lottery, horse racing, tribal casinos, internet gambling, sports betting, and poker. The study would identify the percentage of New York State residents participating in gambling by age, race, income, education, sex and any other relevant demographic breakdowns.
She said her proposal would “better target treatment services.”
Robert McLaughlin, who co-leads Hodgson Russ’s Gaming Law Practice and formerly was Director and General Counsel of the New York Lottery, told Casino.org “additional studies are always good.
“Anybody that is supporting gambling should also support problem gaming initiatives,” he said.
Still, speaking on behalf of himself, he said “it depends on who does the study” since sometimes “people have an agenda.”
He would like to see OASAS conduct the study since “they are the experts in the state.”
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, wants sports gambling at four commercial casinos. Some Assembly members also want to see online sports gambling. Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano recently told Casino.org he wants the Empire City Casino in his city expanded. It was just taken over by MGM Resorts. In 2013, four commercial casinos opened in New York State.