State Attorney General Matthew Platkin and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement last week announced what they describe as “a new, groundbreaking responsible gaming initiative to identify and help problem gamblers by utilizing information already collected by online gaming operators about their patrons’ playing habits.”
The plan is for DGE officials to coordinate with online wagering companies by using technology to identify potentially vulnerable gamblers. As part of this plan, operators of gambling platforms will be required to analyze player data with that goal in mind.
DGE Director David Rebuck first referenced such a plan in the spring of 2022, noting that it would take time to put in place what is being described as “the first program of its kind in the country to be implemented.”
That is particularly significant because of New Jersey’s historic role as a pioneer in U.S. gambling expansion.
The state was the first outside of Nevada to legalize casinos back in 1976, it was the first state to launch online casino gaming with a competitive marketplace back in 2013, and its six-year legal battle to allow for any state to offer legal sports betting ended in success in May 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law.
“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,”
State Attorney General Platkin said in a statement.
“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 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.”
As part of the terms and conditions in user agreements that must be signed before access is granted to online gambling platforms in New Jersey, players consent to have their play monitored and recorded in order to prevent fraud, identity theft, and cheating.
Operators of online wagering platforms also train their staff members who interact with players to identify potential “red flags” indicating a gambling disorder.
The new initiative is designed to ensure that data will be used to pinpoint players who might need help, with dedicated responsible gaming personnel following up to reach out to them.
The DGE lists 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.
- players who regularly access the self-exclusion page on the operator’s website without ultimately executing an exclusion.
Beyond that, operators also will be monitoring for other account activity that could be indicative of problem gambling – such as deposits for thousands of dollars being made in a short span oftime, or a player making multiple requests in a 24-hour span to increase the limits on deposits or losses.
Some steps already were in place
New Jersey regulators already had in place the self-exclusion option; a requirement that all gambling advertisements include responsible gaming language; and wagering choices players could select to monitor and control the amount of time and funds they spend on gambling.
The new initiative goes a step further, with external outreach designed to make patrons aware of problematic habits and then offering guidance, information, and options to consider.
“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,”
“This new approach will enable dedicated responsible gaming experts employed by the platforms, and by us, to see the early warning signs and reach at-risk patrons before they find themselves in a financial catastrophe.”
The initiative has gained backing from Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey Executive Director Felicia Grondin.
“The council is encouraged by the DGE’s efforts to identify online betting behavior in an effort to assist at-risk gamblers,”
Grondin said in a statement.
“Given the increasing popularity of online gambling, initiatives such as this are more important than ever. This effort, along with our virtual and in-person problem gambling training for industry employees, makes for a more thorough approach to identify and assist those who may be suffering.”
Three steps toward assisting vulnerable gamblers
At first, an at-risk patron will receive automated outreach regarding responsible gaming. Then, 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 a 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 in New Jersey 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 show up in person and proactively seek to have their wagering ability reinstated if they want to resume playing.
Operators also have been required to block self-excluded persons from their platforms, and they must demonstrate prior to launching their websites that they have implemented safeguards to prevent self-excluded persons from gambling.
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