In his first initiative as Chair of the New York Gaming Commission, Mark D. Gearan, president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges led a public forum to address issues surrounding problem gambling on Wednesday, April 9 in Albany. Gearan was nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo in January to lead the state agency that regulates the lottery, casinos and horse racing.
The Gaming Commission convened leading researchers, advocates, public health experts, as well as academics and practitioners to discuss “what to expect in terms of problem gambling impact and challenges when commercial casinos open in the state, as well as to identify industry best practices for both casino operators and regulators to implement and address those challenges,” according to the Commission.
The forum followed Gearan’s comments he outlined at his first meeting as chair of the Gaming Commission in March – to address the issues of problem gambling in advance of any new casino construction in the state. “We need to have an enhanced focus on the problem in order to foster a responsible environment for the gaming industry,” said Gearan. “As we expand gambling in the state, we must also do all we can to mitigate associated addiction issues, to get ahead of it and to prepare for it.”
In his opening remarks, Gearan said that the forum would “assist the Commission with a better understanding of problem gambling issues as we grow as an organization and continue to work in collaboration with stakeholders.”
He expressed his commitment to establish a responsible gambling program to appropriately address compulsive – and problem – gambling related issues, not just in the commercial casinos but throughout the entire gaming industry. Gearan was joined at the forum by Gaming Commissioners John J. Poklemba and Barry Sample.
Providing testimony were scholars from Harvard Medical School and Columbia University Gambling Disorders Clinic as well as the New York Council on Problem Gambling and other agencies that provide services for problem gambling. The forum’s discussions ranged from treatment and prevention options, to the work being done on these issues in other states, to the gap between the reality and the perception and stigma of addiction.
Gearan noted the important steps that the New York State Legislature has already taken, including a problem gambling plan as a required element of the request for application process, and the requirement that the licensees address problem gambling as part of the licensing criteria.
“And most importantly in my judgment, for the first time the legislature created a mechanism for education and treatment,” Gearan said. “All three of these elements are distinctive, very forward-thinking on the part of the legislature, and give us as the Commissioners a very good road map…with the counsel of the various experts we have for testimony today to guide our work in the months ahead.”
In addition, the expected revenue stream flowing into treatment programs from new casino development would distinguish New York, making the state one of the top 10 states in terms of per capita spending. Among states with populations larger than 10 million, New York would be poised to move into the No. 2 spot.
Transcripts of this and previous public forums and Committee meetings are available at www.gaming.ny.gov.
Gearan’s chairmanship is a volunteer assignment that provides oversight of the state’s newly created agency for the lottery, horse racing and casinos. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his nomination of Gearan during the State of the State address in January. The New York State Senate unanimously confirmed his appointment in February.
Gearan has served as president of Hobart and William Smith since 1999. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on the intersection of higher education and civic engagement, serving as chair of the Talloires Network Steering Committee, co-chair of the National Advisory Board on Public Service at Harvard College, board member of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and a former Board member of The Partnership for Public Service and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
With extensive credentials in public policy, he served as Director of the Peace Corps and was Assistant to the President, Director of Communications and Deputy Chief of Staff in the White House. Gearan earned his B.A. in government cum laude at Harvard University and his law degree at Georgetown University.
The forum was attended by several media outlets such as:
WNYT-TV NBC News Channel 13 http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S3393682.shtml?cat=10114
WAMC Northeast Public Radio http://wamc.org/post/state-gaming-commission-hears-testimony-problem-gambling