New York Rule for Problem Gamblers to Take Effect

Racetracks and off-track betting parlors in New York must begin a program that lets problem gamblers voluntarily shut themselves out from betting, the state Racing and Wagering Board ordered Feb. 4.

The rule, mandated by legislation last year, takes effect Feb. 16. Tracks have 30 days after that to come up with a plan for the program. It tracks laws on the books in six other states.

The new program requires tracks and OTBs to establish systems in which bettors can ban themselves from entering the facilities. Also, problem gamblers can place limits, on a daily or weekly basis, on how much they can bet at individual tracks, OTBs, and through wagering accounts. The restrictions can be loosened by the gambler, but the changes cannot take effect for one week in order to provide a cooling-off period.

Tracks and OTBs will be required to create a list of people who want themselves restricted to both on-track betting and telephone account wagering. Those joining the gambling restriction program will have to provide things such as photographs and Social Security numbers to the tracks and OTBs. Tracks and OTBs will be barred from marketing their services to people on the restricted gambling list.

The tracks must take steps to ensure confidentiality of the problem bettors. At the same time, though, they must share the information with all security and other track and OTB workers

Tracks have the responsibility of immediately removing someone who is on the restricted list if they are found on the premises. The rule does not create any legal cause of action by individuals on the list against tracks or OTBs if, for instance, a person gets into a track and places bets.

Industry officials have privately wondered how busy tracks and OTBs can possibly ensure that people who sign up for the program are, indeed, kept from entering the facilities or from not betting over their predetermined limit.

Racing and Wagering Board chairman Michael Hoblock said he didn't know if the program would, in the end, be effective in helping compulsive gamblers. "It's a tough issue," he said. "I'm sure the legislature was wrestling with the threshold of where do you begin and end the regulation of human behavior?"