“Sorry, So Sorry”

quickDraw_playcard 

 

 

 

 A real-life narrative about Quick Draw

 

 

 

 

 

 

In describing certain measures the  nascent  Responsible Play Partnership proposes to police gambling by under-age persons, the RPP states  tamely “violations could result in fines, suspensions or revocation of an entity’s license.”  The verb is “could,” not even “may,”  much less “will.”   The url for the press release about the RPP is shown below. http://www.gaming.ny.gov/pdf/press_022013.pdf 

     The following true story instances  a  shocking lack of  oversight  circa 2002-2008 of the  lucrative New York State Lottery “game” Quick Draw in one small city.  It could be entitled “ ‘Regulation’  In Action;”   alternatively,  “Regulation  Inaction.”  Considering that legislation is pending as of March 2013 to relax rules about Quick Draw,  more stories like this – if not quite as infamous – may be expected unless regulatory policy can get out of the conditional mood.

 

Summary: a Quick Draw addict with unfettered access to his stepdaughter’s earned fortune gambled away a large part of it “playing” at a favorite bar.  The local  newspaper  investigated how the bar’s owner  could have permitted this abuse of trust to run  for years. The owner then  surrendered the QD license. This ended official enquiry.   Three years later he told the Lottery Licensing authorities that the newspaper had maligned him for political purposes.  The license was restored without investigation.

 

      From mid-1998 well into 2002 the Speak Easy Bar at 557 Pearl St. Watertown NY had an habitué who played Quick Draw there  over and over and over – and over.  A real estate agent, he was locally famous as the stepfather of a high-paid supermodel who had grown up in Watertown.  Not everyone in town, however,  knew he had induced her in 1998 to have him replace the outside financial manager she had recently taken on.  

     In 2002, after four years of near-daily multi-hour “play” the Quick Draw aficionado started to bounce checks.  According to the local  newspaper, instead of warning him to stop playing or (within their rights) prosecuting him, the owners of the Speak Easy Bar and of other Quick Draw locales in town borrowed money from their friends to let him keep “playing”  until he could cover the bad checks. They of course were profiting from his losses.  In fact the owner of the Speak Easy had received a “Top Agent Award”  from Lottery in 2001.

     In January 2003 the Quick Draw addict told his stepdaughter that he had been using her money to “play” and had lost a lot of it.   He was prosecuted for writing bad checks.  When he pled guilty to that charge and others in October 2004, his stepdaughter’s  losses 1998-2002 were estimated in documents submitted to the court at 7 million dollars, nearly all of her assets.  In early 2005 the  stepfather was sentenced to prison. After the newspaper ran a story on the bar-owner’s role in enabling the stepfather’s addiction and consequent abuse of entrusted funds, the bar owner “opted to surrender” his Quick Draw license as of March 2005.  This ended  investigation by Lottery. 

     In May 2005, the model brought suit against her stepfather and the bar owner.  After more than a year, the latter was removed as a party.  Later, he changed the name of the bar  and applied to get the Quick Draw license back.

     Writing in  2007  to the Licensing Director of the NY Lottery, the owner of the Speak Easy Bar said that all published charges of his enabling the  gambler’s addiction after bad checks began were false.   His letter, published in the Watertown Daily Times of May 18 stated  “I cut him off  [from Quick Draw at the Speak Easy].”  He did add a sort of apology (quoted below) which implies in the passive voice that someone had failed in a duty to “cut off service.”   This contradicts his assertion that he had refused to allow the habitué to continue Quick Draw at his establishment.

 “Clearly there is a lot to be learned from such an incident, including the need to impose restraint on customers in the same way we would cut off service of alcohol to the obviously compulsive drinker.  There is also a need for those who sell tickets not to get caught up in playing such games.  I understand that. “ 

After no investigation Quick Draw was re-installed at 557 Pearl Street  in early May 2008.  Just ask in town for “The Mayor’s Bar.”

Notes: For a description of keno (the generic name of  Quick Draw) go to http://preview.tinyurl.com/awf3yvb

The opinions in this post are those of the writer, Stephen Q. Shafer MD MPH, and are not necessariy shared by any or all other members of CAGNY.  Permission is given here to quote from this piece at any length as long as the source is made clear using the permalink address above. 

 

Under New Management: Business as Usual

Melencolia (A. Durer 1514) file from Wikipedia

Melencolia (A. Durer 1514) file from Wikipedia

A press release dated 20 Feb 2013 announces the formation of  “The Responsible Play Partnership”  to bring together the newly formed NYS Gaming Commission, OASAS (Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services) and NYS Council on Problem Gambling.   The full text may be seen at  http://www.gaming.ny.gov/pdf/press_022013.pdf    I have excerpted one  line and five paragraphs from it, making no changes within the excerpts, which  are in italics.  I have added commentary at the top,  among the paragraphs and at the bottom.

None of the proposed actions is itself a bad idea.  The total package, however,  is wholly inadequate to deal with compulsive and problem gambling in the state now.   Moreover, it takes no account of  new gamblers moving into these two categories  if, as the Governor wants,  seven new casinos are eventually licensed.  Casinos are hardly mentioned.

 … The Responsible Play Partnership will include the following components:

 Swift enforcement of age restriction laws: New York law prohibits gambling under the age of 18 at all OTBs, horse racing facilities and casinos. The current legal purchase age for Lottery tickets is 18 and 21 in establishments that sell alcoholic beverages. Similar to state enforcement efforts that prevent alcoholic beverage sales to underage buyers, the Responsible Play Partnership will help to enforce the age restriction laws for gambling:

  • The Council on Problem Gambling is coordinating with various alcohol and substance abuse councils across the State to carry out underage compliance checks at various locales, with Gaming Commission staff accompanying them. Underage volunteers will attempt to place bets, purchase tickets and/or engage in gambling activities at lottery retailers, Quick Draw locales, off-track betting and E-Z Bet locations, race tracks and video lottery terminal facilities across the state.
  • When violations occur and where possible, Gaming Commission personnel on-hand will issue an immediate notice to the venue outlining the violation and any applicable disciplinary action.
  • Violations could result in fines, suspensions or revocation of an entity’s license to participate or provide such services in New York.

 Comments: 

  • Stiff  barriers  to underage gambling are good.  There is no mention, however,  of  how intensive or extensive  the micro-sting operations will be.  Penalties do not seem stiff —  violations “could”   result in  fines  etc.  
  • I expect the  RPP has no authority over  tribal casinos; thus, no mention here of  including   them.   If  non-tribal casinos are introduced, would the RPP be sending its underage undercover agents into those?
  • Is the RPP going to say anything now about the proposal mentioned in New York Times (21 Feb 2013 pp A19 and A22)  to allow  persons under 21 to play Quick Draw in bars?   If  truly responsible, the RPP should not merely accede to checking on compliance with changes in law that deliberately  increase exposure to gambling.  It should contest such changes.

 Proper resources at facilities to identify and address problem gambling: The Gaming Commission will mandate that VLT locations, off-track betting facilities and race tracks in the State  submit a report indicating how they currently handle individuals showing signs of  being problem gamblers. The Commission will evaluate these measures with OASAS, the Council on Problem Gambling and future partners to issue improved consistent policies to all facility operators.

 Comment:  This empty rule will probably get some token compliance hardly worth the paper it’s written on.   It is impossible  that  any of the listed types of facility will look in good faith for  “signs of being problem gamblers.”  For one thing, they don’t have the staff  in settings (e.g. racinos)  which  improve profit margin by mechanization and depersonalization.  Moreover, they have a fiscal reason to be blind to problems unless they anticipate  frequent  inspection and a harsh penalty for failure.   This brings us  to the central statistic  of predatory gambling:  a large proportion of  the  gross returns after winnings are paid out  comes from the small proportion of the gamblers who are compulsive or problem gamblers.  Grinols and Omorow* estimated 35-50% at the average casino, from about 4% of the adult population.   No  sensible gambling  locale will risk offending its best customers and driving them to a competitor by confronting them with the always-denied suggestion that there might be a problem.    No floor manager wants to be fired for remonstrating, even gently,  with  a  longtime customer  who is sure to deny what is felt as an accusation.

Casinos know a great deal about customers, but can always claim that if someone has left $40,000 on their tables in the last year they have no responsibility to know where that money came from.  Is it chump change to a wealthy heir or is it a spouse’s I.R.A.?   Casinos are off-limits to state regulators now in NYS (as NY casinos are all tribal)  but if non-tribal ones are legalized as the Governor wants,  they would theoretically be very important  in identifying problem gamblers.   A major part of the Governor’s idea for new commercial casinos was to regulate (as well as tax) them in a way that tribal casinos are not regulated or taxed.  It is odd  that the RPP omits casinos in their announcement.

 For that matter, lottery ticket sellers and Quick Draw locales (admittedly thousands of times more numerous than the other settings and harder to monitor) are also exempted from  watching for “signs.”  A small-town convenience store is probably better able to know which neighbor-customer  has a gambling problem than a busy racino, but certainly disinclined to report a worry.  The ticket-seller can always hope that tonight’s pick will at last be the lucky one.

The only persons really motivated to confront and point towards recovery an addicted or problem gambler are those around the gambler who are being exploited and hurt by him or her AND KNOW IT.   All too often these people have been deceived outright or bamboozled by co-dependency and fear into doing nothing effective.  One measure that could help those who are actually deceived by a casino-gambler (as opposed to paralyzed)  is that a monthly statement of wins and losses be mailed to each customer’s home address.  Such laws have been proposed in states with non-tribal casinos, but  never pass.  If  New York gets non-tribal casinos our state should have such a law.

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“Treatment” and “Prevention” of Problem Gambling: 2 little, 2 late

4376727123_8fc3fb172dfrom flickr cc

4376727123_8fc3fb172dfrom flickr cc

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

PG Tx Enrollments FY12KansasStudy Kansas report

12-20-12 Alcohol and Drugs Transcript Assembly Hearing Trasncript