State and local officials gather in Queens to bring attention to the issue of gambling addiction in our borough. NY1's Matt McClure filed the following report.
For Michael Suarez, helping people with a gambling addiction is a matter of putting things in perspective.
“We all have our issues,” Suarez said. “Some people it's ice cream, some people it's gambling, some people it's this or that.”
Suarez used to work in the gambling industry. Now, he's the Program Director at the Queens Center for Excellence, a two-year pilot program comprised of several state agencies. The center helps people with a gambling addiction connect with treatment or other resources through its offices across the borough.
“There was a gentleman who called me and said, 'Mike, I want to thank you because you saved my life,' and I cannot think of anything as worthy to do with my time as saving someone's life,” he added.
Suarez gathered along with representatives from the gaming industry and state regulatory agencies at Queens College on Thursday to raise awareness about problem gambling.
“Problem gambling affects not only individuals, it affects families, communities and everyone involved,” said Jim Maney, the Executive Director of the New York Council on Problem Gambling.
Organizers said it was especially important to have this conversation in Queens, which is home to Resorts World Casino.
“Resorts World is the most successful casino here in the United States and it's here in Queens,” added Maney. “We have Belmont. We have a history of gambling in Queens and the boroughs and we don't have any services for it.”
“We're an entertainment venue, and we want our guests to come out and be entertained by being at the casino and not experience issues or difficulties,” said Resorts World spokesperson Michelle Stoddart. “And in case we do have somebody doing that, we have the resources to help them.”
That includes training employees to recognize the signs of gambling addiction, and what to do if a customer approaches them and needs help.
If you or someone you know needs help with a gambling addiction, go to queenscfe.org.