One of the arguments gambling opponents have always put forth is community concern over problem gambling. It’s a valid argument that the gambling industry takes seriously. As New York seeks to move forward with sports betting, online gambling and the addition of more casinos, there’s been a renewed concern about the current state of services in New York for problem gamblers.
As the gambling industry continues its focus on getting the proper legislation in place to allow gambling expansion, a lot of other things have to be taken into consideration. The New York legislature has to balance the need for tax revenues with the interest of its citizens. Casinos are focusing on things like the selection of online casino software providers. While gambling enthusiasts eagerly await good news from the government, someone needs to focus on the potential of collateral damage to local communities and families due to problem gambling.
NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli‘s office recently issued a 17-page report on the state’s current gambling addiction treatment services located throughout the state. In the report, investigators discovered the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) hasn’t taken an in-depth look at the state’s gambling treatment programs since 2006. DiNapoli sees this as a major issue. His office’s audit took place between January 2017 and September of last year.
According to him, “gambling addiction destroys lives and families. When New York expanded casino gaming, it took on the responsibility of making sure there were adequate services to meet the rise in addiction that comes with it.”
The most telling part of the report came comes from this segment: “Since 2006, OASAS has not conducted a comprehensive needs assessment or social impact study to identify the number or location of individuals in need of such services. As such, we were unable to determine whether OASAS has a sufficient number of treatment programs available for problem gamblers, or if OASAS’ limited resources were applied where they were needed most.”
According to the report, OASAS has not conducted any kind of impact study since NY opened four casinos in 2013. Two-thirds of the state’s counties have no mental health resources for problem gamblers while OASAS offers only 39 problem gambling treatment programs throughout the entire state, covering a population of 8.2 million people. That’s an embarrassing one program for every 210K people.
As could have been predicted, OASAS puts the blame on lack of funding. According to Trisha Schell-Guy, deputy counsel for OASAS:
“When funding is available, we will seek to perform a study to determine the need for problem gambling services. In the interim, OASAS has initiated a project to add questions to existing reporting requirements in our county planning system to capture problem gambling needs, which will go live in March 2019. Further, OASAS is in the process of procuring for a vendor to conduct a statewide youth development survey of school-age youth on the prevalence of their substance use and gambling activities.”
This information is sure to catch the eye of NY legislators. As gambling legislation moves forward, gamblers can expect to see provisions put in place to make sure NY is one of the safest places for people to gamble with the proper safeguards to protect problem gamblers.