New York State Lags In Dealing With Gambling Addiction

By Shawn Dwyer 10/09/14

Despite making more than any other state from gambling, New York lags behind gaming meccas like Nevada and New Jersey in funding addiction treatment.

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Though not commonly associated with gambling like New Jersey or Nevada, New York state features a wide variety of legal gambling options—tribal casinos, off-track betting, and the state lottery—and rakes in a whopping $3.2 billion annually. But the state only spends about $2.2 million on programs that address compulsive gambling, putting New York far behind other states.

“It’s not even close to what we need,” said James Maney, director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling. “Gambling is more normalized now. It’s not just the lottery or casinos. It’s fantasy football. Sports betting. Internet betting. Every form of gambling has taken off, and we haven’t done a great job of responding to it."

With New York about to build four new casinos upstate, calls for doing more to recognize and treat gambling addiction have grown louder.

“As we increase gambling opportunities, we’re going to have a lot more addiction,” said state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, (D-Brooklyn). “We’ve got to do more.”

According to some estimates, the new casinos will contribute an additional $3.5 million toward addiction programs—a significant increase that nonetheless falls short of the mark. Currently, there are an estimated 600,000 to 1 million problem gamblers in New York, many of whom don't seek help. But with the increased revenues expected from the new casinos, as well as new strategies designed to address a growing problem, state officials feel that they're taking the issue seriously.

“We are committed to problem gambling education and treatment,” said Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS). “We’re on the right track.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.