photo retitled “Contemplation”
Letter to the Editor of Legislative Gazette, Albany NY, published Feb 12
To the Editor: Feb 6 2013
Members of the Coalition Against Gambling in New York came to Albany on Feb 5 to express our views to legislators against amending the State Constitution to legalize “no more than seven casinos.” We were heartened to see in the “Other Voice” section an article from the Syracuse Post-Standard headed “Social cost of gambling outweighs revenue gained.” It treats the proposed expansion of Quick Draw, but the header applies as well to the Governor’s proposal for more casinos. We hope it will resound in the corridors of power.
Page 8 has an article by the Gazette’s Josefa Velasquez about the efforts of Assemblymember Cymbrowitz to “address the potential dangers” of “increase[d ] gambling opportunities “ by “investment of resources” “in programs … effective… in reducing … problem gambling, as well as evidence-based prevention programs that aim to reduce the risk of individuals engaging in addictive behavior.” Mr. Cymbrowitz is sincere in his desire to help, but we believe on the wrong track. In Kansas, where for a population a tenth the size of New York’s the state allocates more than twice as much funding to treatment and prevention of problem gambling, a recent report concluded that only 0.5 % of the estimated 24,000 pathological gamblers in the state were in a state-funded treatment program. I note that the 24,000 figure actually underestimates the prevalence of pathological and problem gambling combined.
Mr. Cymbrowitz, in a hearing he convened 20 December 2012, stated that there are close to a million NYS residents with a gambling problem. A witness at the hearing estimated that only 5000 individuals in NYS are in state-funded treatment currently. 5,000/1,000,000 = 0.5%. If treatment in KS, with twenty times the per capita allocation, does not penetrate deeper than it does in NY, a responsible society cannot depend on treatment of problem gambling , no matter how effective it can be for individuals. We must rely much more on an environmental strategy for primary prevention: don’t expand gambling “opportunities.” Our state has more than enough now.
s/ Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH Chairperson Coalition Against Gambling in NY
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