The office of the New York State Inspector General has witnessed an increase in the number of complaints lodged against the New York State Gambling Commission and the gambling entities it oversees, a report released by the office revealed. The Inspector General’s office took charge of the handling of the regulatory body’s internal investigation a couple of years ago. Data suggests that since September of last year, the office received more grievances about the oversight activities of the gambling watchdog than nearly any other governmental agency in the Empire State.
The surge in complaints coincided with the recent expansion of the local gambling industry, following the launch of legal mobile sports betting. More landbased casinos are also set to open doors across the state as part of said expansion. The spike in grievances related to the regulatory body also coincided with the legislative changes in how complaints are being investigated. Internal investigations regarding the watchdog were previously handled by a designated inspector general within the Gambling Commission, who largely did not disclose such matters to the general public.
Under the previous setup, the Gaming Inspector General Lisa Lee was tasked with looking into such investigations. Lee carried out the investigations alongside two other employees from within the Commission. The findings were then reported and shared with the watchdog, which determined what further course of action should be taken.
Local media outlet The Times Union recently dug out copies of several investigative reports Lee prepared over the years where she provided details about various cases of misconduct within the agency, including employees engaging in sexual harassment, gambling while at work, and threatening retaliation against whistleblowers. Several former employees of the regulatory body shared with the daily newspaper that they had reported similar workplace issues to Lee at the time but their complaints were never addressed.
267 Complaints Have Been Filed against the Commission Since September
As proposed by the administration of the now-former Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Inspector General’s office merged with the Commission’s inspector general and took over these responsibilities in mid-2021. This merger led to the creation of an independent regulatory entity tasked with the responsibility of pinpointing corruption and fraud within the state government. Lucy Lang was subsequently appointed as a State Inspector General by current Governor Kathy Hochul and Lee was reassigned to her office.
The number of staff members investigating complaints regarding the watchdog increased with the inclusion of 36 investigators, 24 investigative attorneys, and a dozen or so auditors. By contrast, only three staff members dealt with gaming-related investigations under the previous setup. As a result, several investigations into the Gambling Commission and its regulatory activities were made public.
According to the first annual report Lee released as a member of the State Inspector General’s office, 307 complaints were lodged against the regulatory body in 2022, representing a 150% increase compared to the previous year. The number of complaints remained high in the months to follow. As many as 267 complaints regarding the regulator have been filed with the Inspector General’s office since last September.
Only three other government agencies have witnessed a greater number of complaints during this period – the Department of Social Services (487), the Department of Corrections (951), and the Workers’ Compensation Inspector General (1,277). As many as 896 complaints were made against entities outside the jurisdictional scope of the State Inspector General.
Many of these complaints concerned disputes between sports betting companies and their patrons. Others had to do with the regulatory body’s work, including the Commission’s failure to take adequate measures against a Long Island veteran club that was caught running illicit gambling twice in the course of five years.