Enough is Enough, Says NY Comptroller

7 February 2000
The state of New York hasn't taken too kindly to Internet gambling. Consider the 21 offshore sportsbooks stung in '98, the ruling against World Interactive Gaming Corp. in '99 and the numerous prohibitory bills introduced in both the House and the Senate, and the preceding fact becomes a colossal understatement. But wait, there's more. New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall issued a 60-page report Friday calling for a moratorium on the expansion of gambling in the Empire State. Naturally, Internet gambling was among his biggest concerns.

The report in many ways echoes the posture of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission's report, which was issued in June 1999. In his report, McCall points to the rise of the Internet, the move to locate casinos in New York communities and the introduction of Quick Draw as major concerns. "This call for a policy moratorium on gambling in New York State is designed to prevent the State from moving too far, too fast," writes McCall.

Those keeping score might want to take note that, although McCall clearly views Internet gambling as a problem, nowhere in his report does he directly suggest prohibition. He instead asks policy makers to step back and weigh the issues. Considering that there are already several prohibitory measures awaiting approval in state congress, McCall's news isn't all that bad for the Net betting industry.

Click here to view McCall's report.

Following is a press release issued by McCall's office on Friday:

McCall: State Shouldn't Just Roll the Dice on Gambling - Urges Cost and Benefits Be Examined Before More Gambling Is Introduced

February 4. 2000

New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall today called for a moratorium on the expansion of gambling in New York State. McCall released a report focusing on unanswered policy issues related to Internet gambling, casino gambling, the Lottery and problem gambling. McCall's report follows the National Gambling Impact Study Commission released last year.

"There is all kinds of talk about new ways to gamble in New York," McCall said. "But no one is talking about an overall policy. The State has introduced convenience gambling games like Quick Draw without any thought to their impact. We need to take a breath and look at the cost and benefit of all these new and expanded gambling proposals. A moratorium will give the State a chance to focus attention and to educate the public about the choices government is making. The State shouldn't be introducing any new gaming until all the issues are addressed."

McCall's report stated there are more than 1,000 Internet sites available for gambling, most of which are readily accessible to children. To date, the State has not undertaken any educational effort or implemented any policy to help New Yorkers understand this issue.

"The National Commission on Gambling called for a prohibition on Internet gambling because of the danger it poses to young people" McCall said. "The Internet is a powerful tool, and like any tool it should be used properly. Gambling is not for kids -- it's adult entertainment, and parents should have a way to protect their kids."

McCall's report is also critical of the State's drive to constantly add new Lottery games in order to make up for lost revenue. The State now has numerous on-line and scratch-off lottery games that bring in $1.44 billion annually. Quick Draw, which the State added in 1996, has been linked to increased problem gambling. The Governor's new proposal to add Powerball--a multi-state Lottery--has already drawn criticism.

"State officials have been chasing one Lottery game after another in order to raise revenues," McCall said. "But introducing all this gambling is a gamble itself. The State is gambling away good sense for the sake of expediency." McCall's report also urges the Governor and Legislature to enact new laws giving state agencies the authority to regulate Indian casinos. The report cites a 1996 Governor's Task Force Report on Casino gambling that called for State government to create a new structure to regulate Indian casinos.

"The State Constitution left it for the people of New York to decide whether or not we should have casino gambling." McCall said. "The federal law that allows Indian casinos in New York State does not eliminate the responsibility of State officials to govern. The Governor and Legislature should pass legislation giving state agencies the proper authority to regulate this industry."

"Many communities that haven't benefitted from the current economic recovery are looking at casinos as a way to help their local economy," McCall said. "But I don't believe New York can gamble its way to economic prosperity. Upstate New York needs more than casinos and prisons to help its economy."

McCall's report highlighted the fact that New York State's rate of problem and pathological gambling is above the national average. According to the New York State Council on Problem Gambling, between 1986 and 1996, the prevalence of problem gambling increased by 74 percent in New York State.

McCall also examined problem gambling among young people. Despite the legal gambling age of 18 in New York State, nearly one third of young people surveyed in 1998 had been able to purchase lottery tickets. The survey also found that the average age that young people began gambling was 12.

"There are far too many under-aged gamblers in New York State," McCall said. "The State markets Lottery games very attractively-- children are naively drawn in by the glamour of striking it rich quick. New York should take a closer look at how the State tries to sell these games of chance.

"Our State and the nation must do more to recognize this issue of problem gambling," McCall said. " For most New Yorkers, gambling is an enjoyable form of entertainment. For others, gambling is a problem that can destroy families and bankrupt lives. Research shows that if you increase gambling opportunities, you increase problem gambling. And research also shows that problem gambling carries a big cost -- not only for the gambler, but for the entire State."

The report calls on the Governor and Legislative leaders to enact a moratorium to allow more time to resolve issues related to casino, Lottery and Internet gambling. The report also calls for an increase in funds for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.

"The critical element is leadership," McCall said. "The State is steaming full speed ahead into the uncharted waters of tremendously expanded gambling. There's no map and there's no captain in charge of guiding the State through all the obstacles these new gambling venues present."