BATAVIA — Gambling addiction is an issue for roughly 2 million adults in the United States. In Batavia and around New York state, gaming providers say they’re making an effort to address the issue.
New York State Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said as many as 3% or more than 6 million adults in the U.S., have mild or moderate gaming problems.
“It’s our job as gaming regulators, administrators, operators, public health administrators and advocacy groups to join with the National Council (on Problem Gaming) to shine a light on the very real problem and issue of problem gambling and the millions of individuals nationwide who continue to gamble for reasons other than entertainment,” Williams said during a discussion Thursday at Batavia Downs.
“What is responsible gaming?” was the title of Thursday’s presentation, he said. Williams said the answer depends on where a person sits.
“For the player, it might mean not using gambling as a source of income, gambling only with money you can afford to lose or setting time or money limits for gambling,” he said. “For the operator, it may mean prevention with the goal of stopping problem gambling behaviors from developing. For the treatment provider, it might mean ensuring that there are resources and treatment options for those who seek assistance. For the commission and the New York State Lottery that we operate, it means developing and implementing a competent, statewide approach to responsible gaming.”
Williams debuted signage featuring the industry’s first-ever Quick Response (QR) Code to connect problem gamblers with trained problem gambling clinicians where they live, in real time.
Once scanned, the QR Code automatically links users to the Council on Problem Gambling’s website (www.nyproblemgamblinghelp.org), which provides access to a network of Regional Problem Gambling Resource centers supported by the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS).
The QR Code is available on advertising and promotional materials the Gaming Commission and its licensees issue.
Applications include New York Lottery scratch-off tickets, promotional screens at nearly 15,000 Lottery retail outlets statewide, mobile sports wagering promotional mailings, complementary messaging on all 18-plus age verification signage posted at horse racing tracks, and digital signage found on the gaming floor at video lottery gaming facilities and commercial casinos.
Williams said the Gaming Commission will be active all year. It is currently giving retailers talking points and incentives so they can help their customers make good decisions about giving lottery tickets as gifts all year-round.
“In July and August, the commission will increase the visibility of the responsible gaming message at premier events, including the state Fair and various county fairs,” he said. “In September and October, the commission will refocus efforts to promote age verification with a new 18-plus campaign, in conjunction with new lottery agent training and statewide public service announcement campaigns.”
Batavia Downs Gaming President and CEO Henry Wojtaszek said problem gaming is an issue statewide and nationally.
“We take it very seriously at Batavia Downs and we appreciate the support of the Gaming Commission and other agencies to help us do that,” he said. “We have to pay attention to the danger signs that happen and to our staff’s credit, they do that. We’re trained to see indicators from patrons that may have a problem-gaming issue.”
Staff will take concerns to on-duty management to see if the situation needs to be looked into further and to explain the options a patron with a problem-gaming issue has.
“If you walk around the gaming floor, you’ll see the decals on every device that promotes New York’s HOPEline,” he said. “Our security and floor staff have information on any of those topics if our patrons want to find that out. If they need more statewide information, we’ll give that to them as well. Each one of our promotional mailings that we send out reminds people to play responsibly.”
The HOPEline number is 1-877-8-HOPENY (467369), The HOPEline is owned by OASAS and operated by contractors to provide high-quality, responsive information, and referral services via phone and text message to callers throughout New York State experiencing substance abuse and problem gambling. HOPEline services are free and confidential.