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New York to step up effort to battle problem gambling

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New York to step up effort to battle problem gambling

With new casinos under construction in upstate New York, the state Gaming Commission is moving to st
New York to step up effort to battle problem gambling
Mohawk Harbor construction site, as seen from Erie Boulevard in Schenectady on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

With new casinos under construction in upstate New York, the state Gaming Commission is moving to strengthen its problem gambling policies.

The commission is looking to establish a statewide self-exclusion program to restrict problem gamblers from visiting various gaming facilities, the commission said during a meeting on Monday.

Self-exclusion programs now exist at all video lottery facilities, racetracks, off-track betting corporations and Indian casinos. More than 2,800 people have self-excluded themselves statewide.

With self-exclusion programs by facility, problem gamblers could opt to go to other gaming facilities in the state instead. To close the loophole, the commission proposed creating a statewide program.

Self-exclusion gives people the option to put their name on a no-entry list for a casino. People who are on the list cannot return to the casino. If they return they could face trespassing charges.

The commission also plans to extend self-exclusion to Lottery games where prizes of $600 or more must be claimed at regional Lottery customer service centers.

During Monday’s meeting, the commission proposed rules for responsible gaming at future upstate commercial casinos, including the Schenectady casino.

The commission is requiring that each upstate casino identify policies and procedures to combat problem gambling, including an employee and training program.

The commission is also looking for the casino operators to provide quarterly and annual reports to the commission on their problem gambling plan’s progress and results.

The upstate casinos would have to identify restrictions on advertising and signage, including the content and placement of gambling assistance messages.

The Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor off Erie Boulevard in Schenectady is being built now and is expected to open by this time next year. The $330 million facility will include 1,150 slot machines, 63 table games and 15 poker tables.

In June, Rivers Casino operator Rush Street Gaming said the future casino would have a self-exclusion program, like the nearby Saratoga Casino and Raceway in Saratoga Springs.

Rush Street also plans to have a new-hire orientation on problem gambling along with employee training to identify problem gamblers. Also, people under the age of 30 would have to provide identification.

Rush Street also operates three other casinos in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Des Plaines, Illinois. Advertising and marketing for those three casinos include a hotline for problem gambling.

Rush Street is planning to work with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services and the state Council on Problem Gambling to help people with gambling problems as part of the Responsible Play Partnership.

In a statement, Rush Street said the Rivers Casino will be “dedicated to providing a responsible gaming environment.”

“That dedication has always included a commitment to a self-exclusion program,” Rush Street said. “We have a strong history when it comes to responsible gaming at our other properties, including operating under statewide self-exclusion policies, and we look forward to continuing that same record of excellence in Schenectady.”

In addition to the Schenectady casino, commercial casinos are also being built in Thompson, Sullivan County and Tyre, Seneca County. Tioga Downs in Tioga County is also seeking a casino license.

The Gaming Commission is planning to produce a public service announcement to help parents speak with their children about gambling and a poster campaign to raise awareness of Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March.

The National Council on Problem Gambling will hold its annual conference in New York state for the first time in more than 30 years, the commission said on Monday. It will be July 15 to 16 in Tarrytown, Westchester County.

Reach Gazette reporter Haley Viccaro at 395-3114, hviccaro@dailygazette.net or @HRViccaro on Twitter.

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