TYRE — March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

The opening of del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre Feb. 1 makes that significant for Seneca County and the Finger Lakes.

The state Gaming Commission, the state Office on Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services and the state Council on Problem Gambling have combined to form the New York Responsible Play Partnership. On Monday, the RPP announced a series of initiatives, including the launching of a statewide self-exclusion program.

It is designed for people who self-identify as needing help in their battle with problem gambling, allowing them to ban themselves from all casinos operating in the state, not just a single casino.

“The RPP continues to be an effective tool in forging a comprehensive, smart gaming policy in New York state,” said Robert Williams, Gaming Commission executive director.

RPP officials will visit del Lago and the two other newly opened upstate state-licensed casinos to review the operators’ efforts to promote responsible gaming practices.

That will be followed by public meetings in the communities hosting the casinos to educate the public on the resources available for those who need help.

Del Lago, for example, will pay Seneca County to hire two counselors.

The RPP also will foster awareness through a focused social media campaign, conversation-driving signage at all state gaming facilities and development of a new public service announcement of a hotline to address all forms of addiction, including gambling.

For the first time, the New York Lottery will feature responsible gaming messaging as part of its daily televised drawings.

“By engaging all stakeholders involved in the issues, problem gambling treatment providers, casino operators and regulators, and venturing into the community, we are driving focus to the issue and making more resources available for those who need help,” Williams said.

RPP members will visit newly opened casinos at Tioga Downs, del Lago and River Casino in Schenectady to meet with management, tour the facilities and review implementation of each facility’s required responsible gaming plans.

In connection with these meetings, the RPP will hold public meetings. Dates, times and locations will be announced soon.

The self-exclusion program closes a decades-old regulatory loophole in the state that made it possible for video lottery and casino patrons to voluntarily ban themselves from one gaming property, only to continue playing at a neighboring facility unabated.

The new policy gives gamblers who recognize they need help the ability to sign a universal self-exclusion contract acknowledging that they elect to ban themselves from participating in all casino gambling, video lottery gaming, off-track pari-mutuel wagering, internet and account wagering and interactive fantasy sports gaming in the state.

Upon signing, problem gamblers acknowledge they face arrest for entering a gaming facility licensed by the state, each of which will have access to a secure, Commission-maintained data base on all self-excluded people.

The Commission is also working on plans to extend the self-exclusion program to video lottery winnings and casinos operated by Native American tribes.

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