Officials discuss gambling addictions ahead of new casino

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – With a new casino set to open in New York State, regulatory agencies, treatment groups and casino officials are making an effort to address addiction.

On Wednesday morning, Schenectady County Community College played host to a problem gambling awareness event. Representatives from the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the New York State Gaming Commission, and the Problem Gaming Council spoke.

Representatives from the state’s new casino sites were also there. Part of the location process included speaking to what casinos would do to address “problem gamblers.”

For many people, gambling is a fine form of entertainment, but about 10 percent of players run into trouble. According to Clinical Director of the Center for Problem Gambling in Albany Jerry Kriss, five percent become pathological gamblers.

“They are addicted to gambling,” he said. “They don’t care about the consequences. All they care about is getting more money to continue gambling. Whether they win or lose is immaterial.”

Kriss said, at any given time, he has over 50 people in treatment on an ongoing basis.

“They all get there because they are in so much emotional and financial pain,” he said.

Others enter treatment because they are mandated by law. James Maney, the executive director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling, said students and older adults are the most vulnerable population.

“That we educate not only individuals but the community that there are some folks that could have some difficulty with this,” he said. “Let’s do everything we can to mitigate that problem.”

Casino representatives said they’re in. Zelletta Wyatt, Vice President of Strategic Planning for Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor, said they will restrict access to anyone under 21 years of age.

“Our current layout here for the Mohawk Harbor, we are going to have two main entrances, and in those two main entrances, there will be security positioned at both so that we can do identification checking,” she said.

Anyone who appears under 30 will be carded. Plus, every new hire will receive responsible gaming training to learn how to identify problem gambling – something that Kriss said often takes too long for players to notice themselves.

“The average person seeks treatment after a minimum of 10 years of gambling,” he said.

According to the Executive Director of the NYS Gaming Commission Robert Williams, they’re still in the regulatory process leading up to issuing casino licenses. He said New York State Police back grounding is still underway, and they’ll made a decision on licensing towards the beginning of Fall 2015.

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