Responsible gambling and regulatory experts are lauding a new online gambling policy in New Jersey, which, if effective, might become an industry standard as a way to curb potentially harmful digital behaviors.
The NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement now requires online casino and sportsbook operators to monitor user data for specific activities that may be “indicative of a gambling disorder,” according to a press release.
Gamblers whose accounts are flagged will be “approached using various circumstance-dependent interventions,” the DGE says.
‘Early warning signs’ key to NJ’s new online gambling policy
NJ’s first-in-the-nation policy closely mirrors online gambling operator requirements used by European regulators. The goal, regulators say, is to be proactive rather than reactive.
According to the DGE, online operators will be looking at user accounts for the following:
- Players whose gambling time increases from week to week
- Bettors who repeatedly self-impose cool-off periods from gaming
- Those who wager until they have less than one dollar in their accounts
- Players who regularly access the self-exclusion page on the operator’s website without ultimately executing an exclusion
Additionally, operators will be paying close attention to “account activity that could be indicative of problem gambling,” such as:
- Deposits for thousands of dollars being made in a short span of time
- Multiple requests in a 24-hour span to increase the limits on deposits or losses
David Rebuck, director of the NJDGE, said the new online protocols will “enable dedicated responsible gaming experts employed by the platforms and us to see the early warning signs and reach at-risk patrons before they find themselves in a financial catastrophe.”
NJ moving in the ‘right direction’
The popularity and acceptance of online gambling is spreading throughout the United States. Accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic and government stay-at-home orders, internet gambling and online sports betting segments are growing faster than traditional brick-and-mortar casinos nationwide.
As the number of states with legalized gambling increases, so does the potential for a rise in problematic behaviors.
Felicia Grondin, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, and other problem gambling advocates say NJ’s new policy is “a step in the right direction.”
“The way that we perceive it is, the DGE’s efforts are both preventative and they’re responsive. They’re there to help the potential problem gambler as well as responding to those who may have already developed a gambling problem.”
Short-term, long-term benefits
Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, believes NJ’s new online policy will have an “immediate, direct impact.” The long-term possibilities for even greater player protections are also encouraging to Whyte.
“(NJ’s online policy is) going to help us finally collect and analyze the data that’s available and start to determine what are actually more predictive markers of harm.”
NJ ‘culture’ supports responsible gambling, regulatory change
It comes as no surprise that New Jersey is setting the standard in regulatory innovation, said Michael Pollock, managing director and co-founder of consulting and analytics firm Spectrum Gaming Group.
NJ was the first state outside Nevada to legalize casinos, the first state to legalize online gambling in 2013 and is responsible for the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to overturn a federal ban on single-game sports betting.
Pollock, whose career experience also includes time as an Atlantic City casino newspaper reporter and a spokesperson for the NJ Casino Control Commission, said Garden State regulators welcome opportunities to move the industry forward.
“New Jersey has more of a culture in which its regulators will more willingly embrace and have a comfort level with (change),” he says.
Pollock believes as many as 10 legal gaming jurisdictions will emulate NJ’s online policy in the next five years or so.
“I fundamentally believe that, as in a lot of other (regulatory) areas that we’ve seen, other states are going to follow suit because they’re going to wait and see how it works in New Jersey. And when New Jersey works the kinks out and has some experience, other states are gonna follow suit.”
‘Sustainability’ is the end game for NJ gambling operators, regulators
Richard Schuetz, a former casino executive and former state gaming regulator, is a vocal advocate of responsible gambling on social media. Schuetz says NJ’s online gambling policy is a smart business practice for operators in addition to providing additional layers of player protections.
“Nobody wants to be involved in (an) industry where the product is damaging people’s lives. You just don’t want that to happen. … The (gambling industry’s) goal is sustainability. You start burning people out, and there’s just all kinds of negative consequences.”
Whyte, the national problem gambling advocate, says NJ’s approach is setting an example for shared responsibility amongst industry stakeholders.
“Other regulators should follow their lead. …We strongly encourage other jurisdictions to adopt this (policy) and certainly encourage all operators to use their data for responsible gambling purposes voluntarily, even when and where they’re not required to.”