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Kentucky Must Optimize Its Responsible Gambling Messaging For Young Players

Written By Derek Helling on October 12, 2023
Kentucky Responsible Gambling

Like in many other states with regulated online gambling options, Kentucky’s government has taken it upon itself to promote responsible play. Several potential obstacles to successfully doing that which Kentucky faces are familiar — a lack of clear objectives and limited funding among them.

However, there is an element of this situation that is unique to Kentucky. The minimum age to use the state’s licensed sportsbooks is 18 years or older, whereas it is 21 in most other US jurisdictions. While Kentucky is not entirely alone in the 18 or older standard, it is the most populated state with such a minimum to legalize online sports betting.

Not all of Kentucky’s licensed books have opened their markets to people between 18 and 20. Some of them have, though. For that reason, Kentucky needs to ensure that its messaging around responsible gambling is more effective for people in that age group than any other state.

Kentucky’s prominent young population

As PlayUSA pointed out in a white paper on Kentucky problem gambling, clear objectives are necessary to determine whether the state promotes responsible gambling appropriately. Part of those objectives should be tailoring responsible gambling content for younger players.

Download Kentucky White Paper here

Kentucky does not have a disproportional percentage of people in this group compared to other US jurisdictions. Current projections from the US Census Bureau estimate that people between the ages of 15 and 24 represent about 13.2% of Kentucky’s population. That’s just slightly higher than New York’s (12.7%) and Pennsylvania’s (12.9%).

That percentage translates to almost 600,000 people in Kentucky who qualify for the parameters of Gen Z (people who were born anytime between the late 1990s and early 2010s). While they have some qualities that differentiate them based on their age, interest in gambling seems to be something they share with their grandparents and parents.

Gambling prevalence among young people

A 2021 meta-analysis of 85 studies on gambling and young adults published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health represents one of the strongest pieces of research on gambling prevalence among young adults.

Among that breadth of data, standards varied on what the disparate researchers treated as gambling activity and their definitions of frequent play. However, “lifetime participation in gambling rates ranged between 42.1% and 89.9%.” Furthermore, “around a third or more of adolescents or young adults confirmed that they had gambled at least once” in most studies.

Taking a conservative stance, that points to around 200,000 people currently between the ages of 15 and 24 in Kentucky participating in gambling activities either now or in the near future. Educating that population about responsible gambling will require differentiated approaches.

How Gen Z differs in its media consumption

Tailoring messages around responsible gambling to reach the likely tens of thousands of Gen Z members gambling in Kentucky requires understanding how they consume media. Savannah Young of Leaders shared some factoids on that issue in February:

  • US adults between the ages of 18 and 24 spend less than an hour a day watching television;
  • Almost nine out of every 10 people in that age group spend over an hour on social media each day;
  • 50% of them spend at least three hours a day on social media apps;
  • The most popular social media apps for people between the ages of 18 and 24 are Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube.

According to Nik Froehlich of Forbes, 75% of Gen Z members own a smartphone and prefer to use it to consume media over other devices. This information should guide how Kentucky communicates responsible gambling messages to its youngest players.

Tailoring responsible gambling messages for young players

While Gen Z members may not have the greatest disposable income right now, they are the future of Kentucky’s gambling industry. For that reason, Kentucky must help them form healthy habits around gambling.

That, in turn, requires education. Existing research on Gen Z consumption habits suggests it’s vital to get such messaging on social media platforms. Furthermore, such content should be easily digestible video on those apps.

However, merely throwing some words on a screen in a YouTube video will not represent the most efficient use of resources. The content must speak to Gen Z members in their language to communicate the message.

The composition of the content is just as important as the delivery vehicle. Further research shows that:

As Rutu Mody Kamdar pointed out for YourStory, members of Gen Z “are constantly seeking out brands that match their values or help them express themselves better or become a better version of themselves.”

Those are angles that fit well within a responsible gambling promotion initiative for young Kentuckians. Success comes down to execution at that point.

Turning good intentions into good results

PlayUSA‘s white paper on Kentucky’s responsible gambling addresses the potential disconnect between a well-intentioned strategy and actual performance.

“Kentucky won’t be able to declare its problem gambling funding plan successful without a benchmark to measure success. Having failed to allocate public funds to confront problem gambling, creating any new program can be billed as a win. However, that bar is too low to measure progress against.”

“Ensuring that sports betting and, more broadly, online gambling regulations support the public interest rather than merely appear to do so will be critical to maintaining a modern online gambling industry.”

In terms of reaching young Kentucky gamblers and future gamblers with responsible gambling messages, forming an actionable plan is crucial. That plan should include a budget for video content on social media. That content should include diverse castings and short, simple messages.

Promoters should take advantage of Gen Z members’ priority on mental health. Content that links responsible gambling to protecting mental health could be very effective. Furthermore, content that creates a community around responsible gambling will produce results.

Given the unique availability of regulated online gambling in Kentucky for young people, it’s crucial that responsible gambling advocacy addresses that situation. Ignoring young people in the state or falsely assuming that messaging of one type fits all would waste precious resources.

Photo by PlayUSA
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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