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Queens lawmaker highlights anti-addiction measures in sports betting bill

State Senator Joseph Addabbo showcases anti-addiction measures in his bill to legalize sports betting. (Photo via Flicker)

As New York inches closer to legalizing mobile sports betting as a means to close its massive $14 billion budget deficit, state Senator Joseph Addabbo is highlighting the importance of identifying and helping those who may suffer from problem gambling.

March is recognized as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month and Addabbo continues to work toward sports betting while recognizing that issues with problem gambling do not just affect those individuals placing bets — gambling could potentially affect their financial situation, which could cause problems at home; it can affect job status or cause them to be fired; or it can lead to a higher risk of domestic violence as well as suicide.

“Problem Gambling Awareness Month serves as a reminder that gambling addiction is real and requires effective resources to educate, support and treat individuals,” said Addabbo, who is the chair of the Senate Racing, Gambling and Wagering Committee. “As I continue to work on gambling issues for our state, I will make sure that problem-gambling programs are improved, in order to assist those who already have problem gambling issues, help identify the signs of problem gaming, and always to prevent problem gambling from getting out of control.”

New Yorkers are currently placing wagers on sports either in person at upstate casinos or illegally through their bookies, online through illegal offshore websites, or by taking a quick trip to New Jersey and doing it with a mobile device. These markets, especially the illegal market, have no safeguards in place to help New Yorkers, who may be experiencing problem gambling addiction.

Addabo’s bill to legalize mobile betting in the state, known as S.1183, has measures built into the language that will help identify and provide assistance for both instances of where an individual has a gambling addiction and to address pre-addiction awareness.

“Problem Gambling Awareness Month is a time to focus on this important issue and to remember that each time we face an increase in gambling opportunities we need expanded services statewide” New York Council on Problem Gambling Executive Director Jim Maney said. “We cannot just focus on education but must also focus on developing policies and environmental efforts that minimize youth exposure to advertising and gambling access. We need treatment service funds adequate enough to ensure that no family who has already been financially devastated by this disorder has to pay for services.”

Addabbo’s bill includes new funding for problem gaming programs from 5% of sports wagering tax revenue, having brick-and-mortar gaming sites train employees to spot warning signs of problem gaming and how to help patrons with symptoms of gaming addiction, protections for minors and other measures.

“Gaming and betting on sports can be a fun pastime and can even lead to some financial gains when done responsibly, but when it becomes a problem and begins to affect a bettor’s lives, it has the potential to lead to some unintended negative consequences,” Addabbo said. “I believe that New York should lead the way on sports betting and I will continue my commitment to manage gaming responsibly.”

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