New York’s problem gambling service providers and casino operators are banding together as part of the Responsible Play Partnership as commercial casinos prepare to open upstate.
Rush Street Gaming of Chicago, which is planning to build a casino in Schenectady, joined other casino operators and state agencies at Schenectady County Community College on Wednesday to discuss responsible gaming programs and services.
Zelletta Wyatt, vice president of strategic planning and operations at Rush Street, said all of the casino employees at the future Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor off Erie Boulevard will have a new-hire orientation and be trained to identify problem gamblers.
“Education, communication and execution are fundamentals with responsible gaming,” she said. “The training is pretty extensive. We do a refresher course annually and a monthly awareness program. So it’s ongoing.”
Wyatt said Rush Street plans to “intentionally restrict” access to the Schenectady casino, with only two entrances and exits, both guarded by security personnel.
“People under the age of 30 will have to show ID,” she said. “We currently have that at our casinos.”
The Rivers Casino in Schenectady will also offer a self-exclusion program for people who know they have a gambling problem and want to keep themselves from going to the casino. Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs has a self-exclusion program, said Skip Carlson, vice president of external affairs at the racino.
“It’s a difficult decision, and we don’t take it lightly,” he said. “People can exclude themselves for one year, three years or five years. We take them off all mailings, and if their card is put in a machine, we will be notified that they are on the property.”
As with other facilities that offer self-exclusion, a person who voluntarily signed up for the program could be arrested for trespassing upon entering the casino.
“We usually give them one strike,” Carlson said. “If they come again then they are very likely to get arrested.”
As part of the partnership, Rush Street is looking to work closely with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the state Council on Problem Gambling to help people with gambling problems.
Rush Street operates casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Des Plaines, Illinois. It is expected to receive a license from the state Gaming Commission to operate the Schenectady casino by the end of this year. CEO Greg Carlin said the casino would be completed within about 16 months of the license being issued.
Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, said problem gambling has to be addressed as a community issue.
“We will be working with the casino to make sure folks that need services have services available to them,” he said. “We’re going to work with them to make sure no adolescents are gambling and that people get the facts of warning signs of problem gambling. We need everyone to address this issue.”
Maney said research shows that there is an increase of problem gambling when a casino first opens in an area, and that college students are at risk. The Rivers Casino will be located about a mile from SCCC and Union College.
“They are a vulnerable population,” he said of college students. “We have to make sure we educate everybody about how they are at-risk groups and make sure the schools take an active role in educating their students about this.”
People looking for more information about problem gambling and where to get treatment can call the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services’ NYS HOPEline at 1-877-846-7369.