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State Gaming Commission Hears Testimony On Problem Gambling

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

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

Maney, whose organization is neither for or against gambling, says there’s no doubt that 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. He 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 piecemeal,” Maney said.  

The executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling 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 Chair 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 the funding could be found. He recommends a public health campaign similar to anti-smoking effort. 

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

The hearing Wednesday, which also included testimony from scientists and Canadian gambling experts, will 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.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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