New Jersey’s problem gambling rates have declined since the introduction of legal sports betting. Even a surge in online casino participation fueled by COVID -19 lockdowns did not result in more problem gambling, says a university study released this week.
However, the prevalence rate of high-risk gambling behavior in the Garden State is still three times the national average, according to a study published Thursday by the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University.
The report is a follow-up to a 2017 NJ problem gambling study from Rutgers and was paid for by the Division of Gaming Enforcement. The data was compiled between December 2020 and April 2021.
NJ gambling behavior changed ‘significantly’ since first report
The report notes “significant shifts in gambling activity and behavior over the past five years,” including that a “much higher proportion” of people in NJ are gambling online. According to the survey, the proportion of online-only gamblers tripled since the 2017 report while the number of those who played both online and in person doubled.
Of concern to Atlantic City casinos is a notable decline in the percentage of people who say they only gamble inside at a brick-and-mortar facility. That figure dropped from nearly 76% in 2017 to only 49% in the post-COVID era.
The overall rate of high-risk problem gambling in NJ decreased from 6.3% to 5.6%, according to the report’s findings. Low- or moderate-risk gambling rates also decreased from about 15% to around 13%.
“As New Jersey’s gaming industry continues to grow, we have an obligation to help those suffering from problem gaming and gambling addiction issues,” Matthew Platkin, New Jersey’s attorney general, said in a press release.
“Through the release of this report, we are taking a comprehensive look at the pervasiveness of gambling across the state, and with it, able to better identify challenges for our most vulnerable populations and design programs and initiatives to assist them.”
Breaking down betting behaviors of Garden State gamblers
The report examines 15 types of gambling, including:
- In-person or NJ online casinos
- Buying lottery tickets or scratch-off instant tickets
- Betting on sports or horses
- Playing bingo, keno or fantasy sports
- Engaging in high-risk stock trades, which the report considers a form of gambling
About 61% of NJ residents participated in one or more of the 15 activities in the prior year. In the 2017 report, roughly 70% of respondents reported gambling within the last 12 months.
Study: People prefer to play NJ lottery
Lottery remains the most popular form of gambling in New Jersey. Almost 73% said they bought lottery tickets while 59% admitted to buying instant scratch-off tickets.
Participation in sports betting in NJ increased from about 15% to a little more than 19%, according to the findings. Legal sports betting in NJ began in June 2018.
Nearly 25% of respondents said they engaged in high-risk stock trading, a seven-fold increase from 2017.
The report comes out during Responsible Gaming Education Month, which concludes with a focus on “supporting research efforts that can help inform policies, procedures, and best practices for minimizing problem gambling risks,” according to the press release.
“We are dedicated to helping players play responsibly,” David Rebuck, director of DGE, said in a statement.
“For some people, this means setting limits to keep the experience enjoyable and social. For others who are struggling with problem gambling, it may mean signing up for self-exclusion or seeking out additional resources. We encourage both players and operators to maintain a balanced perspective on gambling.”
More data from Rutgers problem gambling study
Other noteworthy findings from “The Prevalence of Online and Land-Based Gambling in New Jersey” report include:
- Men had double the rate of problem gambling.
- Nearly 70% of respondents aged 45 to 54 reported gambling in the past year, the most of any age cohort.
- One-third of gamblers ages 18 to 24 reported gambling only online, the highest of any age group and five times as many as in the last survey.
- Almost 20% of 18-to-24-year-olds were reported to be “at-risk” of problem gambling behaviors.
- Nearly 20% of respondents reported some level of a gambling problem.
- Black/African Americans had the highest rate of high-risk problem gambling at nearly 16%.
- People who gambled were significantly more likely than non-gamblers to use tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.
- About 28% of high-risk problem gamblers reported having thoughts of suicide, and 20% said they had made an attempt.
Researchers from the Rutgers University School of Social Work, Center for Gambling Studies surveyed 3,512 New Jersey adults and analyzed their self-reported patterns of gambling activities. Over 1,500 people were interviewed via phone for the study, and an additional 2,000 via online methods.