Connecticut insists sportsbook and online gaming operators make the appropriate problem gambling tools available to bettors. The operators—the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, the Mohegan tribe and the Connecticut Lottery—are also required to offer gamblers the opportunity at self-exclusion.
What Connecticut does not demand is that the operators collect or share data on how bettors use the offered tools.
“The whole point to me was that if internet gaming is generating better data about problems, we’re going to be able to take advantage of that and help people,” said Democratic state Rep. Maria Horn, co-chair of the state’s public safety and security committee.
Where this could come into play is a study by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction on how legalized gambling impacts the state.
The study, due August 1, 2023, will play a major role in deciding if more resources are needed, according to Connecticut Public Radio.
Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, said he’s committed to “sharing pertinent data” with the state.
“We’ll share what information we can without jeopardizing the proprietary nature of our business operations,” Butler said in a written statement. “The form and substance of that information will be determined over time.”
In Connecticut, tools to promote responsible gaming, like deposit limits, are available to players via the betting app.
DraftKings, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation’s sports betting and online casino gaming partner, collects data on problem gambling tools offered to the public, but keeps player-specific data under wraps.
The Connecticut Lottery and its sports betting partner Rush Street Interactive will work with the state on the survey once they know more about it.
“Under the existing state statutes and regulations, the lottery is not the agency tasked with maintaining comprehensive data on problem gambling and problem gamblers,” said Tara Chozet, CT Lottery director of public relations and social media. “RSI, similar to its competitors in the market, does not release proprietary data specific to its app and website usage.”
The Mohegan Tribe will also work with the state on the study but won’t share private data. A spokesperson for FanDuel said it tracks usage of its responsible gaming tools on behalf of the Mohegan tribe. But sharing it is a different matter.
“We’ll have to get together collectively and say, ‘Here are the things we are comfortable sharing broadly as an industry,’” Anika Howard, the president of the Mashantucket Pequot tribal nation’s internet gaming operation, told Connecticut Public Radio in January.
Democratic state Senator Cathy Osten said she expects the operators to do their part for the study. “I’m not worried at all.”
Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, listed privacy and competition as reasons to keep data hidden.
“Why would any one company want to turn over its data? Now, you know exactly which company it is,” Feldman said. “If you’re studying that, competitors will know who it is.”
Operators and vendors can share data that’s been “cleaned up” and stripped of personally identifiable information.
In 2017, the research team at Rutgers’ Center for Gambling Studies concluded 70 percent of New Jersey residents surveyed gambled in the past year. The survey also found problem gambling rates were highest with people identifying as Hispanic, and that most high frequency gamblers bet both online and in-person. The most recent study, completed earlier this year, has yet to be released.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said that each online gaming operator in the state fulfilled the state’s data submission requirement. The New Jersey Casino Control Act requires licensees there to pay for any costs associated with the preparation and distribution of the New Jersey gambling study.
The Connecticut Lottery said partner Rush Street Interactive offers customers things like time limits, spending limits, deposit limits, and self-exclusion through its PlaySugarHouse app. Self-exclusion and a temporary account shutdown for gamblers that hit a $2,500 limit on losses are in place for customers betting through the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. And FanDuel, through its agreement with the Mohegan tribe, offers customers the ability to set wager limits, maximum wager limits, deposit limits, and time limits.
Dr. Sarah Nelson, the director of research for the Division on Addiction at Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, has collected gambling data since 2005. Harvard analyzed European sports betting operator, bwin. So began one of the first analyses of player gambling records.
“They were really proactive in terms of understanding the larger picture and really understanding that we’re going to have these subscribers and these users no matter what and it’s better to know what’s going on and be able to identify that early and kind of work with those individuals,” Nelson said.
Collection of data becomes crucial since so many people fail to self-report, she added.
“People run into problems, and they use self-exclusion to stop themselves. Not everybody who runs into problems uses those tools,” Nelson said. “In fact, it’s a very small minority.”
But they work best for gamblers who are not really problem gamblers.
“I think the tools are better used for at-risk gamblers, whereas people truly experiencing problems—if there’s a way to kind of intervene and ask them questions about their behavior and get them kind of referred to resources that can help them, that’s the best for them,” Nelson said.
You can look at data all day long, Feldman said, you won’t find a silver bullet.
“The only way that we can credibly identify problem gamblers is in a clinical setting with a trained clinician who can diagnose this,” he said. “We can’t ignore that.”
A 24-hour responsible gaming helpline has been flooded with inquiries since the introduction of sports betting and online casinos. Numbers rose 159 percent this past April.
Enrollment in a state-run gambling-specific treatment program called Bettor Choice has seen an increase in clients from 173 in May to 192 in July.
Gamblers in Connecticut may reach out to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling hotline for help at 1-888-789-7777. The council also has an online chat set-up at ccpg.org.