New York Comptroller Urges State Lawmakers to Tread Carefully with Gaming Expansion

Posted on: November 15, 2020, 12:02h. 

Last updated on: November 13, 2020, 02:58h.

New York lawmakers are mulling efforts to expand gaming in order to reap additional tax benefits. But state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is imploring them to first find a balance between the pros and cons of more gambling.

New York casino gambling comptroller
New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli wants state lawmakers to take a breath before approving more gambling. (Image: New York Post)

Tax income from the New York Lottery, four upstate commercial casinos, racinos, and pari-mutuel wagering has dropped significantly due to COVID-19. State politicians are considering expanding gambling, one example being mobile sports betting, to help offset some of the 2020 gaming tax losses.

DiNapoli says Albany politicians must first consider what negative impact more gambling options might bring to the Empire State, and whether the financial reward is worth potential societal harm.

Before expanding gambling, the state must take a closer look at the impacts of casinos and other gaming already in place, as well as the problem of compulsive gambling,” DiNapoli opined.

“There will always be tension between the State’s interest in maximizing revenue from legal gaming and the need to avoid contributing to the problem of compulsive gambling,” the comptroller added. “Finding an appropriate balance may require more careful attention to the social and economic impacts of State-sanctioned gaming activities.”

DiNapoli is no stranger to New York politics. He’s served as the state comptroller since 2007 in a span that’s covered three governors. The comptroller is tasked with auditing government operations and the state’s retirement system.

New Yorkers Inundated with Gaming Ads

DiNapoli says the state’s problem gaming programs are severely underfunded compared with the money spent to convince people to test their luck on the lottery.

The comptroller points to the fact that the state used $90 million worth of public funds during the last fiscal year to advertise the New York Lottery. Casinos and racinos spent another $182 million marketing their gaming operations.

Meanwhile, the Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) received just $5.7 million from the state for prevention, treatment, and recovery services related to problem gambling.

During a 2019 audit, DiNapoli’s office concluded that there were not enough treatment programs offered around the state to aid those with gambling addictions. A follow-up audit this year found that OASAS had taken steps to improve its outreach services.

“While the State Office of Addiction Services and Supports provides prevention, treatment, and recovery services related to problem gambling, policymakers should consider whether resources for such programs appropriately balance the dollars spent to promote State-authorized gaming,” DiNapoli concluded.

Revenue Decline

DiNapoli’s report highlights the revenue loss the coronavirus has caused on New York’s gaming industry.

New York collects more revenue from gaming than any other state, totaling nearly $3.7 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year. That money comes from its lottery, racino video gaming terminals, pari-mutuel racetrack wagering, casinos, and sports betting.

The lottery is the state’s dominant gaming tax source, amounting for about $2.5 billion. The New York Division of the Budget projects that $3.7 billion figure to drop by $616 million during the 2020-21 fiscal year.