Comptroller DiNapoli Warns Against Gambling Expansion

On November 12, 2020, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report entitled “A Question of Balance: Gaming Revenues and Problem Gambling in New York State.” In that report, Comptroller DiNapoli struck a much-needed note of caution regarding proposals to legalize online gambling.

According to the comptroller:

The lottery generates billions of dollars each year for New York. While numbers are down this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Gaming Commission is studying ways to boost revenues going forward. 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.

Comptroller DiNapoli noted the following facts regarding gambling in New York:

  • The State of New York ranks first in the nation in gambling revenue, and a majority of that revenue comes from New York Lotto;
  • During the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the state took in $3.7 billion in gambling-related revenue. However, the state predicts that this revenue stream will shrink by $616 million during the current fiscal year due to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • The State of New York spends significant funds to market the New York State Lottery. In 2019-2020, it spent $90 million of our tax dollars for that purpose;
  • At the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, voters amended the New York State Constitution in 2013 to allow for the licensure of up to seven Vegas-style casinos. To date, four such casinos have opened. The Comptroller indicates that those casinos’ “actual revenues have been about two-thirds of casino developers’ initial projections and thus far economic benefits appear to be modest”;
  • The State of New York spent $5.7 million on resources relating to problem gambling during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This amount is a fraction of the amount spent on the promotion of gambling.

Comptroller DiNapoli also found that the state “has taken few, if any, steps” to find out whether its promotion of gambling has harmed New Yorkers that have a propensity toward gambling addiction.

It should be no surprise to hear that the State of New York is not making great efforts to attack problem gambling. Why should it bite the hand that feeds it? It has $3.7 billion reasons to do everything in its power to promote gambling.

If the State of New York truly wants to curb gambling addiction, it should do three things. First, keep online sports gambling illegal. Second, don’t license any new casinos. Third, shut down the lottery. The state’s warnings against gambling addiction will ring hollow unless the state takes steps to address its own addiction to gambling revenue.