The U.K. Gambling Commission awaits a long anticipated report on the need to update its Gambling Act of 2005. Much of the content expects to deal with the area of responsible gambling or problem gambling or gambling harm. However you phrase it, it comes down to reducing the number of gambling addicts.
What does any of this have to do with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE)?
Well, when it comes to gambling, what happens on one side of the pond is typically bound to happen on the other side. The problems that have affected the U.K. have not eluded the U.S., and the DGE is one agency that tackles the issue as part of its functions.
But don’t let the name mislead you, said Director David Rebuck. “The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is considered a leader in the area of responsible gaming, and other jurisdictions often confer with New Jersey regarding possible responsible gaming best practices.”
Indeed, New Jersey’s responsible gaming protocols are on par with what is available in Europe, he said. The state has offered self-exclusion from casino gaming since 2001 and from online gaming since 2013. But the state’s online operators must go beyond self-exclusion. Required features include:
- Deposit limits
- Time limits
- Spend limits
- ”Cooling-off” periods
“Rutgers University has issued six responsible gaming reports to the DGE, which are published on the DGE website’s ‘Responsible Gaming’ section. We implement recommendations from these reports,” Rebuck said.
The most recent report recommended the use of an early warning system for players with sufficient information to guide informed choice regarding limit-setting. Such a system could ultimately incorporate pop-up messages to alert players when they have reached limit-setting thresholds.
The industry evolves, expands, and reacts to developing technology. “Regulators must be agile and prepared to handle the challenges related to balancing… technology and the need for strong social responsibility protocols to protect the vulnerable,” Rebuck said.
Look for more protocols by the beginning of 2023.
The division is looking at two components. First, each provider will appoint a dedicated staff—and a responsible gaming lead—who will ensure at-risk patrons are supplied critical information such as resources available or various features offered by the operator.
The second leverages technology to help identify potential problem gamblers. This element requires the operator to implement automated triggers based on the patron’s account activity as well as play behavior. Operators have until January 1, 2023, to have their program approved and functioning.
All of these steps apply to sports betting as well.
Advertising may be one area where Europe is slightly ahead of New Jersey and the rest of the U.S. market. Expected to be high on the agenda in the U.K. report is a ban on gaming advertisements on sports jerseys. According to recent reports, the Premier League is already poised to ban such attire before the government forces its hand.
Rebuck agrees that advertising is a hot topic when it comes to responsible gaming: “The DGE already has regulations requiring that advertising be truthful and not misleading. Responsible gaming messaging is also required on all advertising.”
Ads on jerseys are just now beginning to appear in the U.S. But where ads are ubiquitous is on television, for both sports betting and online casinos.
“As advertising becomes more pervasive, the DGE is also currently exploring additional best practices in this area,” Rebuck said.
Gambling advertising, particularly for sports wagering, has definitely oversaturated the market, said Lia Nower, professor and director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University and co-author of the DGE reports on internet gaming.
“There is a need for restrictions, which should be thoughtfully developed, based on what we know from gambling research as well as what we’ve learned from restrictions placed on alcohol and cigarette advertising,” Nower said.
Felicia Grondin, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc., would like limits placed on the frequency and content of gambling advertising, akin to liquor commercials. “But I think this issue would need to be addressed on the federal level,” she said.
There’s always the concern that too many restrictions could drive bettors to illegal offshore sites, the kind legal sports betting was supposed to put out of business.
“I do think that educating individuals about responsible play would better inform the public and, by lessening advertising, there would be less encouragement to gamble,” Grondin said. “I testified before the Assembly Tourism, Gaming and the Arts committee. During my testimony I suggested that information, such as warning labels about the potentially addictive nature of gambling, be required at brick-and-mortar casinos and online gaming sites, like those placed on cigarettes.”
To Nower, gamblers will always patronize illegal sites if they view them as advantageous.
“Even if there are legal options,” she says. “Restrictions should be targeted particularly to protect youth, because we know the younger people start gambling and the more gambling they do, the more likely they are to develop problems over time.”