Study Proposed to Assess Problem Gambling in New York

New YorkA bill is passing through New York´s legislature that could delay the introduction of online gambling until the extent of problem gambling is fully understood.

Statistics related to problem gambling in New York indicate that New Yorkers are responsible gamblers compared with residents of other states. In the 2013 National Survey of Problem Gambling Services (PDF), it was estimated 1.6% of New York adults (244,236 residents) have a gambling problem – which would have placed the state in joint 41st place of the nation´s most gambling-addicted states.

A subsequent survey conducted five years later by WalletHub saw New York fall slightly to joint 43rd place nationally for the percentage of adults with a gambling problem despite three significant events in the intervening years – the New York lottery going online (via the Jackpocket app), the regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports, and the opening of the first commercial brick-and-mortar casinos.

Despite the relatively low rate of problem gambling, New York allocates millions of dollars from casino tax revenues to support six addiction treatment centers and multiple gambling awareness programs. The New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) also liaises with Gamblers Anonymous and the New York Council on Problem Gambling to provide educational services.

New Study Proposed to Gather Further Information

The new study has been proposed in a bill introduced into New York´s legislature by Assembly member Linda Rosenthal – Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. The bill (A 00591) calls for a statewide evaluation of gambling in New York to determine the extent to which residents bet – and how much they lose – by gambling activity.

The gambling activities mentioned in the bill include the lotteries, casinos, sports betting, and poker; and Rosenthal seeks to find out how much is bet and lost on each activity by age, race, income, gender, and “any other demographic that would be relevant to the evaluation”. Rosenthal´s bill has already passed her own committee, and has now been forwarded to the Ways and Means Committee.

If the bill is passed, the task of completing the study would be shared between OASAS and the New York State Gaming Commission, who would have until December 2023 to deliver their findings. The data would be used to assess whether the state is allocating sufficient money to tackle problem gambling and if an extension of the existing services is required.

Proposed Study Coincides with Expected Launch of Sports Betting

An Act law allowing sports betting at the state´s four commercial casinos has been on New York´s statute books since 2013; but, since the repeal of PASPA last year, legislators have been slow to finalize the fine details. The Act will have the dust blown off it this week when the Gaming Commission meets to discuss proposed rules, and the likelihood is that on-site betting will go live later this year.

What´s noticeably absent from the proposed rules is online sports betting. At present, there is no state-sanctioned online gambling in New York; and this is unlikely to change until concerns about the DOJ´s revised Wire Act opinion are resolved. These concerns will not only delay the introduction of online sports betting in New York, but also the passage of a bill regulating online poker.

Even when the issue of whether or not Internet transactions cross state lines is decided, the ongoing study into problem gambling may further delay the introduction of online gambling in New York (including online poker). This is because betting tendencies will likely change as soon as regulated online gambling becomes an option – making any data already collected as part of the study out of date.

So, inasmuch as there does not appear to be a substantial issue with problem gambling in New York, the time it takes to complete the study could temporarily limit the opportunities residents have to gamble. It´s not known for sure that Rosenthal´s proposed study will get the support it needs to pass, but I doubt if many Assembly members would vote against it – even though the consequence could be a delay to the introduction of regulated online gambling.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett