A bill introduced in New York State is seeking to create a Problem Gambling Advisory Council, a new body tasked with identifying issues affecting those suffering from a problem gambling disorder and recommending ways to make prevention and treatment more accessible. The legislation, approved earlier this month, now awaits for Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign it into law.
Bill S.409A/A.658A seeks to increase efforts to combat problem gambling in the state at a crucial time for New York. The proposal follows the launch of mobile sports betting at the start of the year -which has quickly resulted in the nation’s largest market for the activity- and the approval of three additional downstate casinos.
Shortly before the legislative session ended earlier this month, the 63-member State Senate unanimously passed the Council legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Alessandra Biaggi (D-Bronx) and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Manhattan). Among its co-sponsors is Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., chair of the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, who explained why the bill is necessary.
“I am pleased that we are fulfilling a promise to provide additional resources and raise public awareness for problem gambling in our state," said Addabbo. The Problem Gambling Advisory Council would make findings and recommendations to the governor and legislature on how to prevent and treat problem gambling in New York.
The council will consist of 13 members, including the commissioner of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the chair of the Gaming Commission, and eleven additional members. These other appointees would be selected in the following way:
The Temporary President of the Senate and the Assembly Speaker must appoint at least two representatives of community-based behavioral health services providers. The council can meet as often as necessary, but no less than two times per year.
“It is evident that there is a growing need to promote awareness of and access to problem gambling services,” lawmakers said in the bill’s memo. “The development of a Problem Gambling Advisory Council will help to identify issues affecting those suffering from a problem gambling disorder and recommend ways to make prevention and treatment more accessible.”
The body will examine the impact of the new mobile sports betting market on problem gambling services, including whether there was an increase in the number of calls placed to the problem gambling HOPEline or outreach to local problem gambling resource centers, the need for additional staffing, or whether there was an increase in the number of individuals placing themselves on the list of self-excluded persons at gaming facilities.
The council is tasked with developing and recommending strategies “to ensure availability and access to problem gambling programs and resources” for individuals throughout the state. It will also develop an annual report due by October 1st to the governor and legislature, which will contain its findings and recommendations concerning problem gambling.
According to a survey by the OASAS, 5% of adults exhibited problem gambling behaviors within the past year, while 10% of 7th through 12th grade students showed signs of problem gambling or required treatment for the same.
The bill now awaits Gov. Hochul's signature
As part of the enacted legislation that established the ability for new casino development in New York, the legislature required casinos to deposit $500 annually into the Commercial Gaming Revenue Fund for every slot machine or table approved by the Commission. These funds are required to be used exclusively for problem gambling education and treatment purposes.
"The legalization of mobile sports betting brought higher than forecasted educational funds and revenue to our state, and the recent approval of downstate casino licenses will create jobs and additional resources, but this legislation demonstrates that we have not forgotten that we must prioritize problem gambling and address it in a timely, proactive manner," added Addabbo.
The bill now awaits action by Gov. Hochul, who has 30 days to consider signing bills that come to her after the legislative session ends, based on New York State law. According to the Senate website, S409A/A658A has not been delivered to the governor’s office yet. If approved, the legislation will take effect 180 days after it is signed into law.