DENVER — Recognizing that the increase in legal online gambling across the country requires more attention to unintended consequences, the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States issued a resolution providing guidance on responsible gaming and problem gambling policy.
As states modernize their gaming offerings with online sports betting, online casino and online lottery, they have enacted significantly different responsible gaming and problem gambling policies. An independent organization of elected officials interested in gaming policy, the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) offered 16 suggestions for states considering responsible gaming practices at its biannual meeting.
“It’s an all-encompassing responsible gaming resolution that puts 16 points of suggestions that states can do to have successful RG programs,” NCLGS President Jon Ford, an Indiana state senator, told PlayUSA. “A lot of it is based on providing more funds for RG and those funds to be used for research, mental health programs and staffing. Because what we noticed in the study is a lot of regulators don’t have someone on staff to help with RG programs.”
West Virginia Del. Shawn Fluharty, the next NCLGS president, added in a news release:
“The extraordinary, ongoing expansion of gaming into new forms across multiple states demands that lawmakers take necessary steps to protect their most vulnerable citizens. This resolution will help them meet that critical goal.”
NCLGS’ responsible gaming suggestions
The organization of legislators urged states to take a holistic approach to addressing responsible gambling through a combination of prevention and harm reduction, public awareness, intervention and treatment, research and adequate funding.
Key points in the resolution include:
- Use of one accredited national problem gambling helpline number within all jurisdictions.
- States and operators should coordinate gambling exclusion lists to prevent people with gambling problems from problematic play in other states.
- Develop advertising guidelines to ensure marketing is only targeted to those who are of a legal age to gamble, including programs that audit and monitor the content of third-party marketing affiliates.
- Create a specific staff/department function within a gaming regulatory body to oversee all aspects of responsible gaming and problem gambling regulations.
- Integrate problem gambling services and screening into other substance use disorder, mental health and/or behavioral health services.
- Include access to anonymized player data, research components and funding for responsible gaming and problem gambling polices to gauge trends, program efficacy, adapt to current conditions, and expand evidence-based best practices and new prevention and treatment techniques.
- Dedicate funding earmarked for the delivery of the full range of responsible gaming and problem gambling services, including prevention, awareness and education, harm reduction, workforce development, outreach, treatment and research.
How NCLGS developed problem gambling guidance
NCLGS and partner Spectrum Gaming Group hired Marlene Warner, CEO of the Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health, to help develop the resolution.
Warner told PlayUSA she started researching the proposal last year. She conducted more than 50 interviews with legislators, regulators, clinicians, industry representatives and lobbyists.
“There are a lot of states who are still pretty remiss in their approach to responsible gaming and to problems associated with gambling. So my hope is this leads to them doing some of that more preventative work around responsible gambling and then, if problems do exist, making sure they have the adequate funding of services to provide that strong safety net.”
Massachusetts, which launched online sports betting earlier this year, has been one of the most diligent states in addressing problem gambling. The state sets aside 9% of sports betting tax revenue for its Public Health Trust Fund.
“My state of Massachusetts has really taken some giant steps forward and moved the field forward in a lot of this,” Warner said. “But it took a lot of effort for the legislature to strike the right balance, and every state is going to be different. So I think states need to make sure the language makes sense to them while also thinking about this robust, holistic approach to responsible gambling and problem gambling services.”
Model legislation planned as next step
Ford credited his predecessor as NCLGS president, former Nevada Sen. Keith Pickard, with starting the process for a responsible gaming resolution.
Ford said the next step could be crafting model legislation to help states standardize their practices to address responsible gaming and problem gambling.
“As we were going into iGaming and sports wagering, we had a responsibility to create a best-practices document. A resolution is where we landed. I think we’ll continue to work on the topic and maybe come up with some model legislation to create some legislative language to help states implement better responsible gaming measures.”
NCLGS next meets in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in January.