New York has set aside $6 million per year from its gambling tax revenue to help bettors grapple with compulsive behavior that could negatively impact their lives. When a New Yorker gambles more than $2,500 in a given month at an online sportsbook, the law requires the sportsbook to freeze their account and contact the bettor to make sure everything is OK. Once they make contact, the sportsbook may choose to open the user’s account again and reopen credit-card transactions, but first it is required to report the incident to the New York State Gaming Commission.
Gamblers who recognize they’re becoming addicted can contact one of the dozens of regional problem gambling offices in the state to get help. The Manhattan office alone has six licensed clinicians standing by to offer counseling.
“You knew these calls were going to increase,” said Sen. Joe Addabbo, one of the architects of New York’s sports gambling apparatus. “We are finally in position to help these individuals, whereas before, we didn’t know who they were. There was this unknown population going across the bridges to New Jersey or Pennsylvania or doing it illegally. Now we can help them because we know who they are.”
About 2% of Americans, or roughly 6.6 million people, struggle with gambling addiction, according to The New York Times. In New York, the gambling commission says 668,000 state residents are currently struggling with such an addiction.
It’s unclear what legalization will do to affect that number, but many people seem to think it could tick up. In neighboring New Jersey, according to one report, calls to that state’s gambling helpline involved sports betting in 4-8% of cases before legalization. That figure rose to 15% in 2018, the year legal sports betting launched, before vaulting to 35% in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now settling at about 15-18%.
Improvements in the offing?
Addabbo said he and other political leaders will revisit the state’s gambling intervention efforts after March Madness to decide whether more needs to be done. He’s also hoping to issue a public report on the issue once all the reports from the nine operators licensed to take online bets in New York come in.
“As legislators, we have to stand ready to improve anything that needs improving in terms of mobile sports betting, whether that’s the mechanisms themselves or addiction issues,” Addabbo said. “We have to stand at the ready to help people.”
The gaming commission partnered with the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the New York Council on Problem Gambling to form the Responsible Play Partnership in New York state. Its mission is “ensuring that gaming venues comply with all rules and regulations and undertake proper outreach measures, reevaluating self-exclusion policies across the state to ensure consistency, and considering the best ways to advance New York’s long-term commitment to prevent and treat compulsive gambling,” according to the commission’s website.
New Yorkers seeking help with a potential gambling problem can call (929) 955-3061, email, or reach out through Facebook. Among the warning signs, according to the gaming commission, are family arguments about money, missed deadlines at work, or depression or anxiety triggered by gambling.