Officials Concerned Over Sports Gambling

Andy Goodell

Sports gambling isn’t making much headway as far as getting to the floor of the state Legislature for a vote this term.

Earlier this week, a hearing was held in Albany where lawmakers heard from gambling supporters and analysts that New York will lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars or more if it doesn’t authorize sports gambling on smartphones and other mobile devices.

Lawmakers at the hearing said they are eager to capture that revenue — which is currently going to illegal wagers or to states like New Jersey that have already approved sports gambling. They’ve introduced bills to authorize wagers on mobile devices.

However, under the current sports betting plans by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, a sports gambler would have to make the bet in-person at an authorized casino.

Whether online or in-person, state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, said none of the sports gambling legislature has made it through committee.

George Borrello

“It has not been on the floor of the legislature,” Goodell said. “I don’t think there is a great push. It’s not a top priority among my Democratic colleagues.”

No matter what sports gambling legislature is approved, Goodell said he is not in favor of allowing it because gambling, except for games like the lottery, are not allowed by the state Constitution.

“Without a Constitutional amendment it’s not lawful to expand gambling to include sports betting,” he said. “I’m not in favor of increasing gambling. People forget that there are a lot of problems with gambling. A lot of people have serious issues related to gambling. It’s not a long-term solution for anyone’s financial issues, it is the opposite. History has shown us that as you expand gambling, people who should be using money to improve their lives are spending the money on gambling. Anyone that looks at the data, the only ones who win on gambling are the bookies and the companies sponsoring the gambling. It’s not good for the long-term future of families or our society.”

County Executive George Borrello, who is also running for the vacant seat in the 57th State Senate District, said there are unintended consequences from gambling, which includes people getting into massive debt. He said if there is going to be more access to gambling, proper controls will need to be in place to discourage people from making poor financial decisions.

“You look at the past, you weren’t able to use credit card to buy lottery tickets things like this,” he said. “If you go to online scenario, it will involve credit cards. (Lawmakers) will have to look at that.”

“Limit that so people don’t go into massive debt. Possibly have accounts with certified funds sent in instead of allowing them to use credit cards.”

Borrello said based on the update he received from New York State Association of Counties conference earlier this year, it doesn’t seem likely sports gambling will be passed by the state Legislature before the end of the current term June 18.

GAMBLING ADDICTS

As the approval of legalized gambling in New York inches closer to fruition, the Chautauqua Area Substance Abuse Council has concerns that the region would be unprepared for the increase. While CASAC currently does not receive many requests to treat gambling addiction, executive director Melanie Witkowski said Chautauqua County is not equipped to maintain any potential increase.

“We don’t have the facility or program for addicts in Western New York,” Witkowski said.

Witkowski said counselors fear an increase in gambling would also coincide with an increased risk of substance abuse in addition to danger for family and loved ones. Also, she said that family and domestic situations are likely to influence gambling addictions.

“We are concerned that families will be impacted because of the lack of economic opportunities,” Witkowski said. “That will lead to more issues for wives, spouses and children.”

Witkowski said gambling has always been considered a disease in the counseling field. As such, diagnosing individual cases and understanding community impact is difficult if not impossible.

“Wherever you see the accessibility you are going to see gambling and more ways for addicts to hide their disease,” Witkowski said.

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