New Jersey is appointing a responsible gambling czar who will oversee a statewide effort designed to curb misleading and predatory marketing tactics. The newly-created position of responsible gaming coordinator will ensure industry compliance with a series of online gambling and sports betting advertising standards, a move officials say is a direct response to a growing national problem.
Additionally, the state is simplifying ways for problem gamblers to voluntarily exclude themselves from either online or in-person gambling.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced the state’s novel multi-faceted regulatory approach during a keynote speech at the 26th East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City.
“As New Jersey’s gaming and sports wagering industries continue to grow and mature, so do our obligations to assist patrons who are at risk for problem gambling,” Platkin said in a statement. “By establishing a dedicated, senior level position within the (NJ) Division of Gaming Enforcement to focus on responsible gaming, we are sending a clear message that we take this work seriously — and so should the industry.”
Details of new NJ responsible gaming program
The 15-point set of NJ responsible gaming initiatives includes:
- Prominently displaying New Jersey’s 1-800-GAMBLER hotline in ads
- Ending dubious promises of “guaranteed wins” or “risk-free” bets if players will not be fully compensated for the loss of their funds
- Eliminating “unrealistic” promotional wagering requirements and making play-through requirements clear in terms and conditions
- Limiting advertising in locations where it would entice those under 21 years of age to play, such as college campuses or social media platforms where “the primary demographic is underage”
- Providing the public with the ability to swiftly opt out of direct advertising
State lawmakers have debated multiple pieces of legislation geared toward accomplishing many of the same goals, such as limiting predatory marketing and ending misleading advertising language.
A source with firsthand knowledge who spoke with PlayNJ before Platkin’s announcement said regulators and the gaming industry had been working together on the initiatives for weeks. A memo accompanying the OAG’s official statement said the DGE shared “initial comments and concerns” with the gambling industry about its problematic practices as far back as January.
Regulatory approach changing as online gaming grows
New Jersey was the first state to allow online gambling back in 2013 and has grown by double-digit percentages every year since its launch.
The Garden State is also responsible for overturning the federal ban on single-game sports betting and was the first state to offer legal online sports gambling.
The online segment in NJ accelerated as a result of the AC casino closures caused by COVID-19. As a share of the statewide gambling industry, all forms of online gambling (casino, poker and sports) now account for nearly 40% of annual revenue. Online gaming in NJ is on pace to match, or possibly exceed) land-based revenue from Atlantic City casinos in the next two to four years.
Last month, online gambling in NJ hit an all-time revenue high of $165.7 million. Online sports betting revenue in March was more than $95.7 million, the state’s third-highest monthly total since 2018.
“We have seen tremendous growth in sports wagering and online gaming in New Jersey,” DGE Director David Rebuck said in a press release. “In the face of that boom, we have a duty to protect the public from advertising that could be misleading or harmful. And for those in the grip of gambling addiction, we need to offer as many exit ramps from their condition as possible.”
In February, the DGE (a division within the NJOAG) launched a first-in-the-nation policy requiring online casino and sportsbook operators to monitor user data for specific activities that may be “indicative of a gambling disorder.”
Problem gambling advocates like what they’re seeing in NJ
Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, lauded Platkin and Rebuck for “their continued leadership in responsible gambling.
“The initiatives announced today further bolster responsible gambling protections and reduce barriers for people seeking help,” Whyte said. “We hope regulators across the country will emulate New Jersey, including by working with the National Council on Problem Gambling and our state affiliate chapters, such as the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.”
An increase in opportunity and access, coupled with seemingly non-stop advertising, has put more people in NJ at risk for problem gambling, says Felicia Grondon, executive director of the CCGNJ. She added that the state’s new measures will help “enforce and expand responsible gaming.”
“The standards outlined today reflect the Attorney General and DGE’s resolve to promote responsible play and make help available to those faced with a gambling addiction,” she said. “We are grateful for the State of New Jersey’s efforts to focus on problem gambling and promote responsible gambling practices; they are needed now more than ever.”