“The Governor made it clear in his State of the State address that we would be in a state of denial if we thought gaming wasn’t already a part of our life. While casino gambling’s presence in our State is currently limited, the number of New Yorkers affected by problem gambling is sobering,” stated Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, which has jurisdiction over gambling addiction. “As serious consideration of a constitutional amendment to allow casino gambling in many more areas of the State heats up, I want my colleagues in the Assembly and State Senate to realize that while we might be looking at an economic engine that could generate over a billion dollars annually for the State, thousands of new jobs and increased recreational venues for New Yorkers, we are also looking at a substantial increase in problem gambling. That is why our discussions to pass this amendment must include the creation of a State-wide comprehensive plan to prevent compulsive gambling and bolster existing problem gambling treatment programs.”
Cymbrowitz pointed out that gambling addictions increase by approximately ten percent within a 50-mile radius of casinos and bankruptcy rates are about 18 percent higher in communities with casinos, according to the National Gambling Impact Study. A study by University of Illinois and University of Georgia researchers put society’s cost for a problem gambler at $13,586; other studies place that figure as high as $52,000. With the current limited availability of gambling opportunities in New York State, nearly one million New Yorkers are problem gamblers. Additionally, a survey of 7th through 12th grade high school students found that ten percent, or 140,000 of these students, showed signs of problem gambling in the past 12 months.
“The reality is that New York State and many more of its citizens are going to experience the problems associated with compulsive gambling if casinos become more commonplace in our State. These problems – an increased incidence of drug addiction, domestic violence, divorce, child abuse, suicide attempts, and crime – will not be limited to the affected individuals and their families, but will touch all of us,” Cymbrowitz warned. “As we debate such issues as whether New York State should allow more casinos, their locations, and what restrictions are necessary, we must also include how we can prevent an increase in problem gambling.”
“Expanding casino gambling in New York State is a major step with many consequences. As Chairman of the Committee on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, I want to be sure that we move ahead in a prudent manner,” Cymbrowitz concluded.
Cymbrowitz’ concerns were voiced in a memo sent to every member of the Assembly and State Senate.