Responsible Gaming to Make or Break Sports Betting in United States, Panelists Say

Responsible Gaming to Make or Break Sports Betting in United States, Panelists Say article feature image

Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images. Pictured: An American flag at the Cotton Bowl.

Sports betting's short history as a legal business in the United States will force the industry to be at the forefront of responsible gambling innovation if it wants to keep thriving in the Western Hemisphere, a panel of executives, regulators, lawmakers and lobbyists said Wednesday.

"Before [legalization], if you wanted to help someone with addiction, you really couldn't because you didn't know who they were," New York Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr., one of the architects of New York's recent online gaming law, said at SBC Summit North America's Panel on leadership and player protection.

As New York explores expanding beyond online sports betting and into a legal iGaming market, Addabbo said player protection would be a key component of any forthcoming bill.

NY Sen. Joe Addabbo, the architect of NY sports gambling, says the next step is legalizing iGaming in next year’s budget.

Adds that raising awareness for problem gambling is biggest challenge.

“We have to make people aware that we have programs out there to address addiction.”

— Sam McQuillan (@sam_mcquill) July 13, 2022

Putting Problem Gaming into Context

Bill Pascrell III, an attorney and lobbyist with Princeton Public Affairs Group who hosted the panel, couldn't overstate the importance of operators partnering with scholarly institutions to measure how well they're doing when so little prior data exists.

In states like New Jersey, those partnerships have been facilitated by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, which has placed some of the most stringent requirements and deadlines on operators to invest in responsible gaming.

"When numbers are thrown out about a spike in problem gambling, there has to be context. What was it 10 years ago? What is it as a percentage of?" Pascrell said. "That's why studies with Yale, Harvard, UNLV and Rutgers are so critical. They're able to put the metrics together to measure."

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Leagues and Operators

David Rebuck, Director of the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement spoke about the difficulty of navigating relationships between operators, leagues and the ever-changing collegiate sports landscape.

The recent reconfiguration of NCAA conferences, most recently with UCLA and USC announcing plans to join the Big Ten, could complicate responsible gaming relationships with states and sportsbooks, he said.

"It's something the industry will have to consider as it navigates RG," Rebuck said.

Leveraging Data

Both Pascrell and Rebuck agreed with panelist Martin Lycka, senior vice president of regulatory affairs and responsible gaming at Entain, that sportsbooks need to use the swath of data they collect on players to fuel innovative safeguards.

"There are two key leaps of faith that the industry and others involved in the space have had to take: Using technology and the ocean of data for other purposes, besides marketing and odds making, and for player protection," Lycka said. "We know a lot about our customers, but we need to do even more to paint a broader picture of who they are."

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