Massachusetts Regulators Hear Concerns About Effectiveness Of Self-Exclusion Programs

September 15, 2022
Current approaches to voluntary self-exclusion in the gaming industry need to evolve to encourage better take-up of the programs, problem gambling researchers and advocates told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission during a hearing on responsible gaming and sports betting.


Current approaches to voluntary self-exclusion in the gaming industry need to evolve to encourage better take-up of the programs, problem gambling researchers and advocates told the Massachusetts Gaming Commission during a hearing on responsible gaming and sports betting.

“Self-exclusion seems to be the standard of any responsible gambling program and yet it isn’t used that much,” said Alan Feldman, responsible gambling fellow at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Now those who use it, think it’s terrific … that’s important,” he said.

Feldman, who spent 29 years as a senior executive with MGM Resorts International, said self-exclusion was important for those who do use it, but he attributed the relatively low use to the way self-exclusion programs are presented.

“It is presented as something that is extremely negative,” he said. “You must exclude, you must see an officer of the state [and] depending on your circumstances … you may be asked to sit in a room with several other occupants and have your picture taken. This can be incredibly off-putting.”

Feldman said he would support a reimaging of self-exclusion with some of the marketing minds from the gaming industry revamping it.

“You think a different perspective would encourage people who need a time out, who need to just close off their relationship for a period of time or forever.”

Keith Whyte, executive director National Council on Problem Gambling, said he strongly agrees that the topic of exclusion needs to be reframed.

“This should be part of the consortium of care and frankly I think it’s good that most people don’t use it,” Whyte said. “Because right now the more people who use it, the more they are going to see the massive flaws in the system.”

“It’s not consumer-centric. It’s not portable. It’s not even portable between various sectors of the gambling industry, much less when you go outside of Massachusetts to another state,” he added.

Whyte and Feldman were two of several experts to join the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) on Tuesday (September 13) for a virtual discussion as the commission prepares to craft responsible gambling regulations as part of its regulations governing sports betting in the state.

The MGC on Thursday will host another meeting to discuss the requirements for temporary licensure and other pre-launch considerations, including the benefits of a simultaneous versus staggered launch.

Michael Wolf, professor with the Department of Psychology at Carleton College in Minnesota, also participated on the panel telling commissioners that said research into problem gaming and sports betting in the U.S. was “green.”

“For many, sports betting represents a means to enhance their enjoyment of a sports event; for others it is going to cause severe financial, personal and inter-personal problems,” Wolf said. “What leads one to one path and one to the other, we still need to better understand it.”

Last week, Dr Rachel Volberg, principal researcher with the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health and Health Sciences, presented an academic report to the MGC which proposed a ban on all in-play betting, as well as restrictions on advertisements and celebrity endorsements of sports betting in the state.

Feldman told the commission that policymakers need to understand how young the field of study of sports advertising is.

In terms of regulating advertising, Feldman stressed the importance of flexibility and making sure regulators and the industry are prepared to make changes when there is evidence to support it.

Feldman also suggested celebrity advertisements could be part of the responsible gambling framework, rather than banned altogether.

Boston-based DraftKings last week announced a new responsible gaming initiative as part of the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) inaugural Responsible Gaming Education Month this September.

Known as Practice Safe Bets, the advertising campaign includes two commercials featuring professional wrestler The Miz and skateboarder Tony Hawk.

Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning is in another Caesars Entertainment commercial alongside his father, ex-New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie, and brother and ex-New York Giants quarterback Eli, to encourage responsible gambling.

“Several companies are running responsible gambling ads with celebrities, so I don’t know necessarily if we just want to cut that off,” said Feldman. “I think it is an area of growth that we probably would like to encourage.”

Cait DeBaun, vice president of strategic communications and responsibility at the AGA, said part of advertising and the volume of ads on local television is “consumer education, driving folks away from the illegal market.”

“In terms of specific restrictions on advertising, it is becoming more national in nature,” DeBaun told the commission. “You’ve experienced this already given your location surrounded by legalized states.”

The more the market grows and there is more access to legalized sports betting across the country, DeBaun explained, the more national the advertising will become.

“So there are limitations to what can be done there,” she said.

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