Responsible Gambling Has Become The Biggest Issue Of 2023

Responsible Gambling Has Become The Biggest Issue Of 2023
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Since 2018, the focus has been on gambling expansion. State after state was legalizing sports betting, and there was barely enough time to cover every new law and market launch. But growth has ground to a veritable halt, providing time to examine other storylines. 

One aspect that is getting far more attention this year is responsible gambling and mitigating gambling harms. And that has become the top issue of 2023. 

A Long Time Coming

The writing has been on the wall for a couple of years, but the industry has never seen a full-court press like this.

There have been efforts to strengthen responsible gambling policies that are in motion in the following locales:

  • IllinoisSB 1508 calls on operators to display a problem gambling resource pop-up after every 10 wagers. Sen. Bill Cunningham introduced the bill.
  • Michigan – SB 54, introduced by Sen. Joe Bellino Jr., requires the “Michigan Department of Education to develop a grade- and age-appropriate model program of instruction on gambling addiction by July 1, 2024.”
  • Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget includes two responsible gambling provisions. The first is a prohibition on using free or risk-free terminology in advertising. The second is an automatic exclusion for anyone sports betting-specific threats to participants in a sports contest.
  • New YorkSB 1550 would require all advertisements to include warnings about the potentially harmful and addictive effects of gambling. AB 1056 would create a problem gambling advisory council. And an effort to set aside 3% of tax revenue for problem gambling research and funding.
  • Massachusetts – Regulators imposed several responsible gambling policies during licensing hearings, including advertising restrictions if 25% or more of the audience is under 21, prohibiting partnerships with colleges and advertising on campus, and a ban on free and risk-free terminology.
  • Maine – Maine is considering some of the most restrictive advertising policies in the country, including prohibitions on in-person account signups and bonuses and promotions in television ads.
  • Virginia HB 1465 would create the Problem Gambling Treatment and Support Advisory Committee.
  • New Jersey – New rules for the state’s 10th anniversary of legal online gambling include beefed-up responsible gaming policies. One such policy is to monitor online wagers to identify and assist gamblers at risk of addiction.

Federal Intervention Ends the Honeymoon

Nothing highlights the new responsible gambling climate better than the federal bill introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko that would prohibit sports betting advertisements on TV, radio, and possibly the internet. 

You can take a deep dive into our coverage of Tonko’s bill here: Coming Soon: Federal Oversight Of Online Betting.

Last year was something of a kumbaya moment for the industry and responsible gambling advocates. The industry had stepped up its efforts since the onset of the sports betting era, and RG groups were seeing increased funding. 

But the federal bill pits the industry against the best-known responsible gambling group, the National Council on Problem Gambling. Because when the rubber hits the road, the two sides have very different goals. 

In a statement, the AGA said:

“The American Gaming Association (AGA) and our members adamantly oppose any legislation that seeks to ban or limit casino gaming advertising, including for legal sports betting."

Contrast that with the NCPG statement:

“As new forms of gambling are legalized rapidly across the country, now is the time for the federal government to play a role in mitigating the negative consequences that come from gambling. NCPG stands ready and willing to assist members of Congress or the Executive branch in determining and implementing policies that will reduce the rate of problem gambling.”

Where Is This Leading?

This is a discussion that is not going away. The expansion of gambling will lead to heartbreaking stories, and responsible gambling advocates finally have momentum (I’d argue for the first time) and are ready to chalk up some wins. 

Further, lawmakers and regulators don’t appear to be buying the notion of “self-regulation” by the industry, as they are taking a more hardline approach

The big question is, how far is the industry willing to go before it begins to push back on policies? It would seem a federal bill is a bridge too far for the industry, but not for RG groups.