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State opens new problem gambling help center

State opens new problem gambling help center

State help line is 1-877-846-7369, or text 467369
State opens new problem gambling help center
Rivers Casino & Resort is seen on its opening night -- Feb. 8, 2017.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

CAPITAL REGION -- The state has opened a new resource center in Guilderland to help people dealing with gambling addiction.

The Problem Gambling Center on Great Oaks Boulevard is operated by the non-profit New York Center for Problem Gambling, as part of a three-year $3.3 million contract with the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which provides the state's gambling addiction services.

The centers are part of the state's response to recently established gambling facilities like Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, with their potential to attract problem gamblers, and exacerbating associated issues, like depression and crime.

Staff at the centers will work to develop or improve problem gambling services in the regions they serve, along with handling calls from their region to the state's problem gambling hot line and providing personalized support to callers until they get a referral to local treatment programs.

“OASAS is fully committed to preventing problem gambling by providing resources and support to those dealing with the effects of a gambling addiction," OASAS said in a prepared statement. "These new Problem Gambling Resource Centers will help us coordinate needed services in communities across New York State and help people who are dealing with issues related to problem gambling.”

Along with opening the center, the state is planning "You're Not Alone" media marketing campaigns in the areas around the four recently opened commercial casinos in New York state, including Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady, state officials said.

While Rivers opened in February 2017 with the region's first live-gaming gambling floor, the Saratoga Casino Hotel in Saratoga Springs has offered video-lottery gambling since 2004. In response to the Rivers Casino opening, the Saratoga facility has upgraded its offerings, added a hotel and rebranded itself to appeal to more gamblers.

The treatment resource centers are being being created even as the state continues to promote the casinos as a source of economic revitalization for local communities and revenue for the state.

"We are working to ensure a balance between new gaming options and an increase in addiction services," Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in an announcement about the centers. "We don't only want to treat individuals struggling with addiction, but prevent people from becoming addicted and inform New Yorkers about the issue across the state."

The North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help estimates that about 2.6 percent of the population may be subject to gambling addiction, and that internet gambling makes the activity widely available.

The new Albany County center opened in November. It will serve a 15-county region that includes the entire Capital Region and stretches through the eastern Adirondacks to the Canadian border. A new center has also opened in Rochester, to serve the Finger Lakes region, which includes the site of the new Del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo.

Future problem gambling resource centers are planned for New York City, Long Island, central New York, western New York and the mid-Hudson Valley. All will be operated by the Center for Problem Gambling, which is based in Albany. The contract is being funded through annual license fees paid by the casinos.

The "You're Not Alone" campaign, which is specially targeted to the areas around the state's four new casinos, includes billboards, posters and advertisements on public buses. There will also be social media campaigns.

The state announced plans for the centers in May.

Separate from the state's efforts to treat gambling addiction, the casinos offer "self-exclusion" programs for people with a gambling problem who wish to be banned from entering the casinos. More than 1,000 people statewide are on that list.

State officials noted anyone can have a problem with gambling, regardless of age, race, gender or other factors. A genetic predisposition to addiction, difficulty in coping with stress and social upbringing can all be factors in who develops gambling problems, they said.

Anyone who is struggling with a gambling addiction or has a family member with a gambling problem can contact the state's toll-free help number 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-877-8-HOPENY, (1-877-846-7369) or texting HOPENY (467369).

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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