Regulators Grapple With Potential Problem Gambling Impact Of iCasino Expansion

Officials in Ohio and New Jersey anticipate gambling expansion in the near future

The potential expansion of top online casinos in the United States is front of mind for state regulators, especially as it relates to problem gambling measures. 

Despite minimal iCasino legalization across states in 2023, industry experts still anticipate iGaming expansion in the coming years. 

“I think the real issue that the gaming world is looking at [is] what’s the future of gambling?” David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said during a panel discussion at the National Council on Problem Gambling’s National Conference.

While Rebuck stopped short of predicting exactly what the next few years of gambling in the U.S. might look like, he did make it clear that he expects legal forms of digital wagering to grow. 

“I have no idea, other than to tell you it’s coming,” Rebuck said.

Amanda Blackford, the director of operations and problem gambling services with the Ohio Casino Control Commission, agreed with Rebuck’s assessment. 

“We’re gonna see more iGaming,” Blackford said. “It’s gonna happen. We all are anticipating it happening. I think that’s one of the reasons why more market research is needed.”

Ohio recently legalized sports betting, with retail and mobile operators going live at the start of 2023. Blackford said marketing in the state ahead of launch was “out of control,” and the OCCC fined some operators after they broke the state’s marketing regulations, including marketing to underage customers.

Nationwide and statewide gambling studies offered the OCCC valuable information. Data indicates that younger adults are more susceptible to gambling issues, making the OCCC’s financial penalties a mechanism to protect the state’s youthful demographic.

With growing forms of gambling, Blackford believes it’s crucial that regulators tap into relevant data sources to help craft policies. Data can help answer questions about the problem gambling prevalence rate in a state, giving regulators a better idea of what problem gambling actually looks like in their jurisdiction.

Mary Beth Thomas, the executive director of the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council, discussed the council’s close relationship with The Gambling Clinic at the University of Memphis. The clinic offers treatment options, while also researching problem gambling, which gives the council a better idea of what gambling problems look like in Tennessee. 

Thomas anticipates increased research surrounding online gambling platforms in coming years, even with Tennessee having a constitutional prohibition against casinos. 

“I think, in the near future, we will work on some specialized studies about online policies specifically,” Thomas said. 

Learn from other states

All panelists stressed the importance of collaborating with other regulators when it comes to crafting the best responsible gambling regulations, whether that’s within sports betting or iCasino. 

With several states — Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia — allowing legal online casino gambling, regulators suggested learning from their policies as their iCasino markets develop.

“We share information. It’s exciting to me because we give them everything and then it’s up to them to determine, ‘Does it work in your state?’” Rebuck said. “If it doesn’t, you can tweak it and do something better, and then I’ll copy what you do and do it in New Jersey.”

States like Ohio and Massachusetts leaned on other state regulatory frameworks while crafting sports betting regulations, creating robust measures to curtail potentially misleading advertising and emphasize responsible gambling practices. Regulators expect the same efforts to occur as iCasino expands.

Photo: Getty Images


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