February 19, 2023
New Jersey Addresses Problem Gambling
- New York operators claim that taxes are inhibiting mobile gaming profits.
- NY Legislators consider expanding sports gambling licensing and legalizing online casinos.
- New Jersey eyes the potential impact of neighboring legislation.
In the wake of the Super Bowl, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) announced a new Responsible Gaming Initiative to identify and help problem gamblers by using information already collected by online gaming operators regarding patrons’ playing habits.
Keeping records of players’ deposits, withdrawals, and betting activity is standard practice in the industry. Players consent to this data collection as part of the site terms & conditions when they sign up.
Regulators require operators to monitor that data for security reasons, including anti-money laundering. Most operators also use it for marketing purposes, such as targeting bonuses. Some international jurisdictions also require them to watch for signs of problematic play. However, this is the first time a US regulator has introduced such a requirement.
As part of the Initiative, the DGE will work with online wagering companies to use technology to identify and work to address at-risk patrons. Operators of gambling platforms will be required to analyze electronically maintained player data to determine whether a patron is showing signs of problem gambling behavior.
The DGE has been planning this initiative since March 2022. It has been underway since Jan. 1, but Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin made a public announcement about it last week to coincide with the approaching Super Bowl. The new requirements apply to online wagering and will supplement the state’s already existing responsible gaming safeguards.
“Under the Murphy Administration, New Jersey has become a national leader in online casino games and sports wagering, and with that growth comes a responsibility to ensure that individuals at risk for compulsive gambling have access to the resources they need to get help,” said Attorney General Platkin. “It is no coincidence that our announcement comes just a week ahead of one of the biggest days in sports wagering, serving as a reminder of how devastating a gambling addiction can be. This new initiative will allow the Division of Gaming Enforcement to work with the gaming industry to identify problematic patterns in player wagering behavior and intervene before they escalate.”
Operators of online wagering platforms currently train their staff members who interact with players to identify red flags indicative of a gambling disorder. This new initiative ensures that data, not just observation by platform personnel, will be used to pinpoint players who might need help, and dedicated responsible gaming personnel will reach out to them.
The DGE has set specific parameters on what patron activities operators should be looking for, including the following warning signs:
- 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, and
- players who regularly access the self-exclusion page on the operator’s website without ultimately executing an exclusion.
In addition to problematic play, platforms will also be monitoring for account activity that could be indicative of problem gambling, including deposits of thousands of dollars made in a short span of time, or a player making multiple requests in a 24-hour span to increase the limits on deposits or losses.
New Jersey’s current framework for addressing gambling addiction consists of the self-exclusion system, a requirement that all gambling advertisements include certain responsible gaming language, and wagering options for patrons to select in order to monitor and control the amount of time and funds they spend on gambling, including time and deposit limits.
Instead of requiring gamblers to recognize when they have a problem and need to seek help, this initiative will provide proactive, targeted outreach to make patrons aware of what habits they are exhibiting and thereafter, assists the patron with guidance, information, and options to consider for their use in the future.
“We are using data to identify at-risk players, alert them to their suspected disordered gambling, and inform them about available responsible gambling features in online platforms and corrective actions they can take,” said DGE Director David Rebuck. “This new approach 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.”
“The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey is encouraged by the DGE’s efforts to identify online betting behavior in an effort to assist at risk gamblers. Given the increasing popularity of online gambling, initiatives such as this are more important than ever,” said CCGNJ Executive Director Felicia Grondin. “This effort, in conjunction with our virtual and in-person problem gambling trainings for industry employees, makes for a more thorough approach to identify and assist those who may be suffering.”
Gamblers exhibiting warning signs will be approached using various circumstance-dependent interventions, including progressive responses if the indications of a potential gambling disorder keep recurring after attempts are made to assist and address the problem.
At level one, the patron will receive automated outreach regarding responsible gaming and associated resources. If the warning signals continue, the patron would be required to view a video tutorial explaining responsible gaming and available resources before being allowed to continue gambling. At the third level, the operator’s responsible gaming lead or team will directly contact and address the issue with the patron.
Previous steps to bolster responsible gaming have included ensuring that patrons who self-exclude for one or five years do not automatically come off the list at the conclusion of the term. Instead, they must go online or come in person and proactively seek to have their wagering ability reinstated if they want to resume playing. In addition, operators are required to block self-excluded persons from their platforms and must demonstrate prior to launching their websites that they have implemented safeguards to prevent self-excluded persons from gambling.
Attorney General Platkin’s announcement comes on the heels of New Jersey’s dedication of $600,000 to five agencies it has tasked with treating gambling disorders and the problems that come with them.
CarePlus New Jersey in Paramus, Parsippany’s NewBridge Services, Williamstown’s Maryville Addiction Treatment Center, the Brooklyn-based SAFE Foundation and Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth were each awarded $120,000 to establish treatment services, including at least one gambling disorder clinician at each site, according to the New Jersey Human Services Department.
“Gambling disorders, substance use disorders and mental illness can often be coexisting and compounding challenges, and that is why it is important to treat these conditions simultaneously,” Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said in a Feb. 9 statement. “In order to do this, we must increase the availability of mental health and substance use disorder providers who have expertise in identifying and treating gambling disorders. These contracts work to do just that.”
Starting this month, the mental-health grants will pay for counselors who can help with gambling disorders as well as related problems such as job loss, financial distress, estranged relationships and legal issues.
“Research shows that gambling disorder is a condition that can have a negative impact on the affected individual as well as their loved ones,” said Valerie Mielke, who directs New Jersey’s Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services. “That is why it is important to develop the capacity to administer treatments that effectively address this disorder.”
Adults with gambling disorders are three times more likely to be depressed, eight times more likely to have bipolar disorder, and three times more likely to experience an anxiety disorder, the state said.
Addressing problem gambling can be difficult, however, even when operators know what to look for. A prime example is Kindred Group, which owns US operator Unibet.
In 2018, Kindred embarked on a journey to eliminate all revenue from problem gambling. Kindred is now in the fifth year of that effort, and still estimates it receives 3.3% of its revenue from high-risk customers. Kindred has been forced to admit that it’s finding it “more challenging than first expected” to get that number to zero.
Anyone who is struggling with a gambling problem is encouraged to call or text New Jersey’s free helpline 1– 800-GAMBLER for confidential support. The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) has helped countless individuals recover from disordered gambling since its inception by facilitating access to various programs, services and other resources. Additionally, gamers who are concerned with their betting can employ available options on gaming websites, including 72-hour or longer “cool off” periods, one- and five-year self-exclusions, self-imposed deposit or loss limits, or permanent self-exclusion through the DGE.