ALBANY — With more than $270 million spent annually to promote the lottery and racinos in New York, state leaders should determine if the problem of compulsive gambling is getting enough attention, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Thursday.
DiNapoli said the sums spent on promoting a slew of lottery games and parlors offering video lottery terminals far outweighs the effort going into treating those with gambling problems.
“State policy makers may wish to consider whether the current levels of resources that are intended to increase gaming activity, and those devoted to mitigating harmful impacts of such activity, strike an appropriate balance,” the comptroller said in a report.
The report also took note of the fact that the state Division of the Budget is projecting that pandemic-driven closings of casinos and VLT parlors is projected to drive down gaming revenue by $616 million this year.
Lottery revenues, through the first nine months of this year, totaled $958 million, a decline of $132 million from the same period a year ago, DiNapoli noted.
In the state fiscal year that ended March 30, the state spent $90.8 million to promote the lottery. In the previous fiscal year, the tab for promoting the VLT parlors, commonly called racinos, came to some $170 million.
“While numbers are down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Gaming Commission is studying ways to boost revenues going forward,” DiNapoli said. “Before expanding gambling, the state must take a closer look at the impacts of casinos and other gaming already in place, as well as the problem of compulsive gambling.”
Proposals have surfaced in the state Legislature to add mobile sports betting to the menu of options for gamblers, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who controls the Gaming Commission, has so far been chilly to that proposal.
In 2013, Cuomo advocated for a constitutional amendment that led to the opening of four non-Indian casinos in the upstate region. Those casinos now account for 0.2% of overall state operating receipts, DiNapoli found.
Revenues from two VLT facilities, Saratoga and Finger Lakes, both within the same market territories of new casinos, have declined, though the revenues have grown for the other VLT parlors, the report found.
The review also noted the Gaming Commission is not required to make available information available regarding the employment levels at the casinos, hindering the ability of policymakers to determine if the push for opening the casinos has achieved job-creation projections and the goal of the constitutional amendment.
Brad Maione, spokesman for the Gaming Commission, offered no comments on DiNapoli’s report. In response to questions, Maione said the Gaming Commission last issued an annual report in 2018.