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New York State Gaming Commission hears testimony on problem gambling

Viri G

The New York State Gaming Commission is holding hearings on the issue of gambling addiction. It’s part of a process that will allow the building of up to seven new casino gambling resorts in the state over the next several years.

Among those testifying was James Maney, the executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling.

Maney, who’s organization is neither for or against gambling, says there’s no doubt the new casinos will increase the number of problem gamblers in New York.   

He asked the gaming commissioners to do a comprehensive statewide social impact study to better gauge the extent of the problem. Maney says the state already has a lot of gambling venues, including 28,000 gambling machines, a large state lottery and illegal sports betting.

“We need to address this all as one and not in piece meal,” Maney said.  

He says the impact study should also include data from social services departments, homeless shelters, and alcohol abuse and domestic violence statistics.

“We don’t have that right now,” Maney said.

Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan, who called for the hearing, says he finds the idea interesting.

Speaking afterward, Maney admits the study would be expensive, but he says gambling in New York state is already a multi-billion dollar business, and he believes funding could be found. He recommends a public health campaign similar to anti-smoking efforts.

Maney also recommends regulators keep an eye on what he calls “vulnerable populations” like seniors, who frequent slot machine parlors.

The hearing, which also included testimony from scientists and Canadian gambling experts, is meant to help the gaming commission better evaluate applications from casino operators seeking licenses in New York. Under the new law, the gambling conglomerates are required to have a plan for mitigating the impacts of problem gambling.

A spokesman for the commission says the gaming officials will also be writing regulations for the casinos, and the more information they have on how to best deal with gambling addiction, the better.