William J. Pascrell III, an industry giant also known as BP3, shares how responsible gaming is ultimately good for business. The industry in the U.S. must fully embrace good practices to safeguard the future, he says.
Gambling is thriving in America. Thirty states have legal betting markets, nine more than last year. Seven states have active, or pre-filed gambling legislation, or ballots in 2022. While 29 million more Americans can legally wager in their home state than this time last year. Every major gambling company reported record bets placed on Super Bowl LVI.
There is no question that the United States is currently undergoing a massive cultural, regulatory and financial shift towards gambling. With this surge comes a parallel need to address problem gambling.
More than 5 million Americans meet the criteria for gambling addiction, which is unique compared to substance abuse disorders, in that it almost universally imposes financial challenges for addicts and their loved ones. The effects are obvious, chronic, and—most importantly—avoidable.
Operators need to step up
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the safety and well being of gamblers: the federal government, state governments, regulatory boards, and even consumers themselves. There is no group that bears a greater responsibility, however, than gambling companies themselves.
Gambling operators essentially have full control over their products: from data collection, to player safeguards, to incentive limitations, countless shifts can be made by operators to reduce the likelihood and impact of problematic gambling behavior.
To make these changes, however, operators need to be aware of the long-term consequences of problem gambling on their survival as an industry. The industry must deploy and embrace a comprehensive approach to responsible gambling.
Just posting 1-800 numbers, required by regulation, is not enough. A comprehensive approach includes continuous research, massive investments in education, innovative technological tools that provide warnings to players, and effective treatment that provides ongoing therapy and support to problem gamblers. These operators need to make large-scale adjustments to their gambling products to more effectively track problematic gambling behavior.
“Markers of protection,” or the range of data points that indicate addictive gambling behavior, should be fully incorporated into gambling companies’ compliance and safety practices. Industry operators should also fund initiatives that are actively educating gamblers and those in high-risk groups on the dangers of problem gambling and the steps one can take to limit their exposure.
Partnership with industry
Entain Foundation U.S., for which I serve as a Trustee alongside Martin Lycka, SVP for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling at Entain Plc and former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer, sponsors or partners with a range of responsible gambling organisations.
These include EPIC Risk Management, which facilitates “lived experience” responsible gambling classes across the country; Kindbridge, an independent virtual clinic that provides mental health services to people suffering difficulties related to gambling and gaming; and the NFLPA Professional Athletes Foundation, a provider of financial assistance and counseling for former NFL players, to create, market, and launch live and virtual educational programs for NFLPA members.
Education key to responsible gambling practice
Academic research must play a central role in addressing problem gambling and ensuring comprehensive self-regulation on the part of gambling companies. To that end, we invested $5 million in a multi-year partnership with the Harvard Medical School Faculty at the Division on Addiction, providing Harvard with access to anonymized player data across a range of our brands. We also partner with the UNLV International Gaming Institute to provide information to legislators and regulators about sports integrity, youth gambling impact, illegal marketplaces and Americans’ perception of gambling.
Education continues to serve as a crucial component of responsible gambling programs. Entain Foundation U.S. partnered with the Seton Hall University School of Law to establish an annual multi-day gaming, integrity and compliance educational Bootcamp, as well as former NBA All-Star Charles Oakley’s “Oak Out Hunger” community project, which provides education in responsible gambling with other forms of support to impoverished, underprivileged communities facing hunger, addiction, and economic challenges in cities across the U.S.
Safe gambling app
The project further promotes Gamble Responsibly America, a cutting-edge mobile app that educates users on safe gambling habits, and Wager Score, a new platform that rewards responsible gamblers by converting 1 percent of every dollar bet into charitable tax deductible donations for social causes. I often refer to responsible gambling as “sustainable gambling.” That’s for one reason: in the absence of an industry-wide, genuine focus on promoting responsible gambling and protecting consumers, the gambling industry will be plagued by crises.
This is one clear example in which doing the right thing is also good business. I only hope that more gambling executives will wake up to that reality in the weeks and months ahead.
William J. Pascrell, III, Esq. (BP3) is a Partner at Princeton Public Affairs Group, the largest statewide lobbying firm in the country; a Trustee for Entain Foundation U.S., a nonprofit dedicated to promoting responsible gambling, sports integrity and corporate compliance in the U.S.; and a globally recognised gambling expert.
Read more interviews like this in our latest SiGMA Magazine here.
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