Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) announced Monday that he wrote a bill proposing the change of the gambling age from 18 to 21 in New York.
The bill follows a similar one state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) proposed in January in response to the opening of the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Race Track.
When asked why he drafted his bill several months later, Goldfeder said, “I really wanted to get a sense that I was right in my thought that this was a real problem.”
Addabbo said he has worked with Gamblers Anonymous and has seen kids as young as 16 with online gambling addictions. He also added 18 to 21 is not the target age range for revenue for casinos.
Goldfeder said there is a big difference, not just in age, between 21-year-olds and 18-year-olds.
“Those few years build the ability for people to understand what the dangers of gambling and placing bets can do,” he said.
Another prominent issue is how close Resorts World is to John Adams High School.
“Kids in high school in their senior year shouldn’t be spending their lunch money on gambling,” Goldfeder said.
He said the gambling age will be in line with the drinking age and the gambling age in other states, such as New Jersey.
A bill legalizing gambling in New York has already been passed — but it has to pass again in the next session and be approved by the voters. Addabbo noted that it also may take a while for the gambling age to increase.
The Legislature’s session ends in June, but Addabbo said he is not optimistic the bill will be passed before then.
“We basically have until next year to get this piece of legislation passed,” he said.
Both Goldfeder and Addabbo said Resorts World is doing a fine job and is quite successful, but that does not take away from the importance of the bill for the community.
Addabbo said those who oppose the measure often bring up the fact that 18-year-olds have other rights, like voting and joining the military. He said gambling should not be paired with dying for one’s country because it is a “totally different issue.”
Despite the opposition, Goldfeder said there has been general support for the bill.
“Statistics really speak for themselves,” he said.
Ten percent of adolescents in New York have a gambling problem, according to a New York State 2007 study. That includes children from grades seven through 12. Another 10 percent are at risk for developing gambling problems.
Although both men said raising the age is important, Addabbo said, “We have a lot of work to do on getting the bill going.”