Bill Pascrell, III: What does a strong, operator-led responsible gambling program look like?
Anyone who has been working in the gambling industry for more than a month has likely heard the phrase “responsible gambling” more times than they can count.
The concept has become referred to in so many different situations, for so many different purposes, that it can be difficult to pin down the definition of what it means to gamble responsibly.The US gambling industry is more culturally and economically significant than ever before. To date, 36 states have legal sports betting markets; US commercial gaming revenue reached $4.89bn in August, a new record for the month; and August marked the 18th consecutive month with positive year-over-year gaming revenue growth.
As gambling continues to surge, and as more Americans become drawn to placing bets, it will become increasingly important for the industry to practically define responsible gambling, incorporate it into every aspect of their operations, and protect their customers. For the very survival of the US industry, nothing is more important than getting this right.
Defining responsible gambling
There is perhaps no educational institution more respected by the gaming industry than the UNLV International Gaming Institute. Their definition of responsible gambling is simple: it means “taking breaks, not using gambling as a source of income, only gambling with money that you can afford to lose, and setting limits for yourself.” In short, responsible gambling is “using gambling for fun and entertainment’s sake,” not as a source of income.
The definition is simple, but it can obscure an important truth: the onus is on gambling operators, not bettors, to ensure responsible gambling is achievable and accessible. Operators are the very entities that facilitate gambling, and as such, they play the largest role in ensuring bettors’ safety.
With that in mind, what does a strong, operator-led responsible gambling program look like?
When industry comes togetherOn September 22nd, six of the largest online gaming operators in the US—Bally’s, BetMGM, DraftKings, Entain, FanDuel, and MGM Resorts International—came together to agree to the first industry-led responsible gambling standards in the country.
The coalition of operators, brought together by Entain, defined 12 principles that include commitments to prevent underage and excluded individuals from participating in any form of gaming; to provide customers with informed choices about gaming through easily understood responsible gaming tools; and to continuously conduct research to track the impact of this collaboration.
Here’s an abbreviated version of the 12 principles, the full version of which can be read here:
- We take active steps to prevent underage and excluded individuals from participating in any form of gaming within our products.
- We help patrons make informed choices about their gaming.
- We support the adoption and effective promotion of a unified nationwide responsible gaming toll-free helpline.
- We abide by applicable standards of socially responsible advertising.
- We provide our customers with tools to play responsibly.
- We abide by all self-exclusion rules and regulations, and provide resources to individuals who make the choice to self-exclude.
- We encourage patrons to set a budget that they can afford and never play beyond their means.
- We encourage patrons to set time and financial limits on their gaming and stick to them.
- We believe in a shared responsibility approach to addressing problem gaming. We work with policymakers, academic experts and researchers, problem gaming treatment organizations, advocacy groups, our partners, and our customers to promote responsible gaming and address problem gaming.
- We support funding for evidence-based problem and responsible gaming research.
- We provide employees with responsible gaming training upon hire and regularly thereafter.
- We are committed to evaluating and continuously monitoring our responsible gaming programs and initiatives.
As a Trustee for Entain Foundation US, I believe strongly in the work that Entain and other industry operators are doing to promote responsible gambling. While these 12 principles don’t cover every possible aspect of an operator-led RG program, they lay out a strong foundation on which the industry can build a truly effective, unified front to tackle problem gambling and protect their customers from addiction-related harm.
As noted by Martin Lycka, my colleague at Entain Foundation US and Entain’s SVP for American regulatory affairs and responsible gambling, the principles are “truly a first for this market and a significant step for addressing problem gaming on a consistent basis.”
I like to refer to responsible gambling as “sustainable gambling.” The reason is simple: American gambling operators will be plagued by continuous crises, like those faced by European companies, if they don’t take on an industry-wide dedication to protecting bettors. The very sustainability of the industry is dependent on its leaders’ commitment to responsible gambling.
The 12 principles are an excellent path forward for our industry’s leaders to define responsible gambling, articulate its best practices, and adopt them in all areas. There is much, much more to do, and I believe we have the right people in place to build a sustainable, responsible gambling industry that prioritizes its customers’ safety above all else.
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 recognized gambling expert.