New York’s Responsible Play Partnership (RPP) was at Resorts World Hudson Valley last week to talk about problem gambling services in the state. Reps from the casino and state agencies were there. So was Michelle Hadden, Assistant Executive Director for the New York Council on Problem Gambling (NYCPG).
None of New York’s nine mobile sports betting operators were listed as attendees on a media advisory for the RPP’s June 15 casino event in Newburgh. That doesn’t mean mobile sports betting isn’t a responsible gaming or problem gambling issue. Hadden told Gaming Today in an exclusive interview last Friday that the need for problem gambling services has increased in New York since mobile sports betting launched in Jan. 2022 – with a focus on young adults.
Although she didn’t have any recent data available, Hadden said calls to the nonprofit NYCPG from college-age students (mostly 18 to 24 years old) and their parents have been on the rise since mobile sportsbooks went live early last year.
That is prompting the NYCPG to look for more funding for problem gambling services, as mobile sports betting handle remains strong and iGaming may be on the way.
“We certainly believe that as we’re expanding gambling there needs to be additional services and recourse,” Hadden said. “We know we’re going to see an increase in problems as we see an increase in accessibility.”
Underage Betting a ‘Concern’, Says NYCPG
New York is now the top sports betting state in terms of revenue since it launched mobile in Jan. 2022. Total online sportsbook handle in New York has topped $24 billion in just 16 months, with over $2 billion in online sports betting gross gaming revenue. According to Gaming Today’s sports betting revenue tracker, taxable sports betting revenue in New York for the brief period of January through April 2023 totaled $421.9 million – nearly half of the state’s sports betting revenue for 2022.
Of course, New York intends to make a lot of money from sports betting. The intent to maximize state revenue was clear in the budget bill that legalized New York mobile sports betting in 2021. The Empire State also has one of the highest tax rates on mobile sportsbook operators at 51%.
But not all sports bettors in New York or elsewhere are betting responsibly, as a recent NCAA survey revealed. Those include young adults, some of whom are too young to bet legally.
New York law limits mobile sports betting and gambling at commercial casinos to those age 21 or older. Yet recent calls for help to the NYCPG from bettors under age 21 – and their parents – indicate trouble.
“I can say that from our call center, where we connect and provide information and resources as well as connect individuals to treatment services, anecdotally we have seen an increase in calls coming from college-age students and particularly their parents,” Hadden told Gaming Today. “So that’s a high need and concern area for us, is that 18-24 year olds, and that’s new. That has definitely been a change.”
Should RG Funding Be Based on a Percentage of Revenue?
Hadden referred Gaming Today to the New York Office of Addiction Services and Supports (OASAS) for statistics that may reflect an increase in problem gambling since mobile sports betting launched in the state last January. That data has been requested by (but not yet relayed to) Gaming Today.
With three new downstate casinos on the way and talk of legal iGaming appearing in state budget talks this year (and maybe next), Hadden said her organization wants the state to invest more in problem gambling treatment and responsible gaming education. So far, that hasn’t happened.
New York state lawmakers boosted state funding for problem gambling services by $6 million when mobile sports betting was legalized in 2021. But Hadden said the $6 million is a cap. The NYCPG prefers funding based on a percentage of revenue instead.
Had state lawmakers honored the NYCPG’s initial request to replace the cap with 3% of state revenue from mobile sports betting, Hadden said New York would have generated approximately $21 million for state problem gambling efforts.
“We have been pushing for that to be changed to a percentage and putting us closer to $21 million is where we really believe it should have been with mobile sports betting,” Hadden told Gaming Today.
We are already “at a deficit in terms of the adequate resources to address issues in the state, and so certainly we’re already requesting additional resources,” said Hadden. “As we expand gambling, we would be seeking even more because we know we’re going to see an increase in problems as we see an increase in accessibility.”
What’s Next for Responsible Gaming in New York?
More state funding for problem gambling services in New York is on the way, but it won’t immediately come from online sports betting revenue. It will instead be drawn from up to three NYC area casinos cleared in 2022 for licensing, with approval potentially handed down by the New York State Gaming Commission in the coming months. Each gaming machine or table game (12,000 total machines and games are anticipated, said Hadden) at the new casinos is statutorily required to contribute $750 annually for problem gambling services, or about $9 million in new revenue per year.
Online casino legislation that was considered during the budget process this year would have added another $11 million for problem gambling services. That proposal stalled, although it could resurface in 2024.
Hadden is hopeful that state legislators will consider new funding sources for problem gambling, especially with an increase in mobile sports betting among young people.
Extra funding, she says, could go a long way toward dedicating problem gambling resources and educators at New York regional colleges and universities where they may be needed.
“We’re getting calls from moms of college-age males who have lost a significant amount of money to sports betting,” Hadden said. “They have come home on breaks or other things and their parents are discovering this, and it’s certainly becoming a problem as it relates to their education, their finances, and their emotional standpoint.”