Members of the New York Responsible Play Partnership will visit Schenectady in the next month to meet with the public and review Rivers Casino & Resort’s responsible gaming policies.
The Responsible Play Partnership, created in February 2013, consists of the New York State Gaming Commission, the New York Office on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services and the New York Council on Problem Gambling. The organization is implementing a series of initiatives this month in concert with March’s status as National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
The partnership will launch a social media and advertising campaign focused on problem gambling awareness, and members of the three associated organizations will visit the state’s three new commercial casinos to review efforts to promote responsible gaming.
In addition, New Yorkers can now ban themselves from all gambling facilities in the state.
The Gaming Commission’s new self-exclusion program broadens its scope. Previously, those who identified as having a gambling problem could sign up to ban themselves from entering a particular facility.
The new policy states that an individual who puts his or her name on the statewide self-exclusion list faces arrest for entering any facility licensed by the state Gaming Commission. That includes commercial casinos, racinos, off-track betting facilities and horse racing facilities.
“This will allow facilities to know who’s on the list, and will make it more difficult for folks who have an addiction to go from one place to another,” said Jim Maney, executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling.
That’s particularly valuable, he said, since multiple gambling facilities are often located in close proximity to each other. In the Capital Region, Rivers Casino & Resort, the Saratoga racino and the Saratoga Race Course are all within 25 miles of each other.
All of the state’s licensed facilities will have access to a database of self-excluded individuals.
Fifty-four people have signed up for self-exclusion since Feb. 1, according to the Gaming Commission. Individuals can only end up on a self-exclusion list by filling out the necessary paperwork themselves.
The New York Council on Problem Gambling would like to eventually see problem gamblers have access to resources for treatment when they decide to self-exclude, Maney said. For example, if someone fills out the paperwork at a gaming facility, he’d like to see the business offer contact information for a help line, he said.
Prior to opening, all gaming facilities in the state are required to submit a responsible gaming plan that reflects how the business will abide by state gaming laws, and how it will handle patrons who exhibit signs of problem gambling.
Mary Cheeks, general manager at Schenectady’s Rivers Casino & Resort, previously said the business’ policies to promote responsible gaming include employee education and training, self-exclusion policies and listing the state’s addiction help hotline on advertisements and social media posts.
Throughout the next month, members of the RPP will tour each of the three new casinos to review how each facility is implementing its responsible gaming plan, and offer feedback as needed.
“I don’t think there’s any expectation one way or another that members will find any areas that could be improved upon or not, but we want to keep the attention on the issue of problem gambling,” said Lee Park, spokesman for the Gaming Commission.
Public meetings will also be held in host communities of the three newly opened casinos, which are located in Schenectady, Tyre and Nichols. A meeting is expected to be held in Schenectady in late March, though official details have not yet been announced.
Based on the legislation passed in 2013 that legalized commercial casino expansion in New York, each of the four new properties are required to pay an annual fee of $500 for each slot machine and table in their facility. That would mean Rivers Casino & Resort would pay a little more than $600,000 annually.
That money goes toward the New York State Office on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, specifically for its problem gambling programs.
By the time Montreign Resort Casino opens next year in the Catskills, the state’s four new commercial casinos are expected to contribute about $3.3 million annually to that effort, Park said.
“All three members of the RPP recognize that the gaming landscape has changed and recognize that problem gambling is a real thing and want to make sure that resources and help are available,” Park said.