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Super Odds Favor Some Winners, Lots Of Losers

A woman takes a photo of a sign for Super Bowl LVIII at the Fremont Street Experience this week in Las Vegas. AP photo

During the heart of the college and professional football seasons, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had some good news for state coffers while highlighting an obvious social concern in a news release. Gambling may be boosting revenues for Albany, but it’s taking a costly toll on those who are addicted.

“Gaming has significantly expanded in the state in the last several years,” he said in October. “With the ease and 24-7 availability of mobile betting apps, problem gambling and addiction are poised to increase. More attention should be devoted to understanding the implications of mobile sports betting, particularly on young New Yorkers.”

As the hype surrounding this year’s Super Bowl continues to ramp up, so will the betting. According to the Gambling Industry National Trades Association, there is expected to be more than $23 billion wagered on Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs showdown.

In what was once considered by the sporting leagues and its television partners to be taboo, it is now nearly impossible for viewers to not know the angles for placing bets during the telecast. Besides the advertisements, the wagers can be seen in pregame shows and during the course of the contest.

Two years ago, before Super Bowl LVI between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams, New York state got in the mobile betting bonanza. In its initial year, it generated $360.7 million for the state — far more than the $99 million initially projected. The $727.4 million in collections for the first full year of mobile sports betting in 2022-23 was double the projection of $357 million.

Those funds coming to Albany represent that of both winners and losers. As part of your tax returns, funds generated through gambling that are income have to be reported.

Additionally, a tiny percentage of all revenues set aside from gaming go to assist those with an addiction. DiNapoli’s numbers note that figure, which totals about $6 million, is far from enough as the state Gaming Commission noted a 26% increase in problem gambling-related calls to the Office of Addiction Services and Supports from 2021 to 2022.

There appears to be growing troubles locally as well. Jeff Wierzbicki, team leader of The Western Finger Lakes and Central Problem Gambling Resource Centers, noted in a letter during the summer that the agency was in dire need of help to deal with a growing number of clients.

“(We) are seeing an increased number of callers looking for counseling for a gambling problem,” he wrote. “We are looking for social workers, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, etc. to join our clinical referral network and help our clients.”

Shanley Olszowy, program manager at that same agency, confirms the rise in calls since the start of mobile gambling that are especially impacting the younger adult population. “We’ve definitely seen a spike in calls from that 18- to 24-year-old range whether it’s the person themselves or a very concerned parent because they don’t know what they’re getting themselves into,” she said. “It’s new. It’s exciting and, for some people, before they know it, it’s a real problem.”

DiNapoli’s gambling report also highlights an important payoff of the potentially dangerous habit. In 2022-23, nearly 95% of the $4.8 billion collected in gaming revenues were used for educational purposes. Chautauqua County’s 18 school districts receive nearly $500 million in aid from Albany each year to operate. Without gambling funds, a bigger burden may face local taxpayers.

As for The Western Finger Lakes and Central Problem Gambling Resource Centers, they understand the triggers that come with this weekend’s game. There will be winners, but usually there are a lot more losers when the bets are placed.

“While the Super Bowl is undoubtedly a time of excitement and celebration, it’s essential to approach the event with a heightened awareness of the potential risks associated with gambling harm,” the center says in its monthly blog. “By taking proactive measures, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed, individuals can enjoy this time by ensuring that the thrill of the game doesn’t come at the cost of their well-being.”

For 24-7 support, call the state Office of Addiction Services and Supports HOPELINE at 1-877-846-7369 or text 467369. The agency will then forward the information to the Problem Gambling Resource Centers.

John D’Agostino is the editor of The Post-Journal, OBSERVER and Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 716-487-1111, ext. 253.

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