New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and Attorney General's Office have published new best practices for sports betting and gaming advertising, the fourth in a series of new guidelines to address emerging regulatory risks associated with online gambling.
In his keynote address to the East Coast Gaming Congress on Thursday (April 20), New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin also announced the creation of a state-wide responsible gambling coordinator.
That position will be filled by an experienced attorney within the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), “who will serve in this new role and report directly to the director and ultimately to me on all issues impacting responsible gaming, including the progress of their responsible gaming guidelines,” Platkin said.
‘The coordinator will be the DGE’s clearing house to continue conversations with stakeholders and provide for full transparency while seeking and implementing new solutions to overcome what we know have been historically challenging problems,” he said.
New best practices for responsible gaming applicable to all licensed internet gaming and sports-betting operators in the state took effect on January 1 but were published for the first time by the Attorney General’s Office and DGE prior to Super Bowl LVII in February.
Platkin said the state’s best practices for advertising were released to the industry last week, but he took the opportunity Thursday to address executives, analysts and gaming attorneys on why they felt the guidelines were necessary.
“We know that growth has been exponential when it comes to iGaming and sports betting,” he said. “We know the competition is fierce and I’m thrilled that most of that growth is driven by New Jersey, and I know that as part of that competition, operators are eager to grow their brands and user base.”
But, Platkin said, officials and the public have also seen the downside of all that activity in the wave of advertising on television, radio and the internet.
“In time, the advertisements have edged the line and received scrutiny from the media and public alike, as well as from regulators, legislators and other government officials,” Platkin said. “I think the response from the public has been clear; people don’t want promises of risk-free bets that aren’t actually risk-free.”
Platkin added that the public considers the conditions of sports-betting promotions to be confusing or unrealistic, and they do not want to see advertisements when they are trying to access help for problem gambling behaviour.
Among the list of new advertising standards released Thursday, sportsbooks and online casinos will have to prominently display the 1-800-GAMBLER helpline in their ads, and there can be no more promises of “guaranteed wins” or “risk-free” bets in bonus offers if the player would not be fully compensated for the loss of their funds.
Unrealistic wagering requirements in promotional offers also may not be offered. For example, a patron receiving a $1,000 bonus should not have to be expected to wager $150,000 to satisfy the promotional wagering requirements.
Wagering requirements must also be clear in their terms and conditions, advertising is restricted in locations where it would entice those under 21 years of age to play, and the public should have the ability to swiftly opt out of receiving direct advertising.
“[This] program does not prohibit advertising but makes clear that operators have an obligation to make responsible gaming a priority,” Platkin said of the new best practices.
DGE director David Rebuck noted the advertising guidelines follow similar best practices put in place for know your customer (KYC) requirements, responsible gaming and cybersecurity.
“We did not just pull those out of our pocket and dictate that you have to do them,” Rebuck told VIXIO GamblingCompliance after participating in an East Coast Gaming Congress panel on sports betting.
“We spent months in dialogue with the industry as to our concerns, their needs … their concerns and how we could not agree but get to a point over what I would mandate to them, and they would do to implement them in the timeframe we’ve outlined.”
Rebuck shared his initial comments and concerns about advertising with the industry in January.
“So, at this point, many of those standards are already done,” he said, although there was “some need software development by the industry and some need training by the industry and you can’t do that in one day.”
Rebuck stressed that the DGE and the New Jersey online industry were both comfortable with the new guidelines.
When asked whether the new ad guidelines will make it easier to track potential guideline violations, Rebuck said he would first want to know why companies have fallen short in compliance.
“If you know anything about New Jersey, we are not the first out of the box to put a six-figure fine on somebody,” he said. “We get upset, but we want to understand how this happened and if it did happen, we want to know how they are going to reduce the risk of it ever happening again.”
“If people are harmed,” Rebuck told VIXIO, “then we’ll take care of that and the consumers that are harmed."
On Thursday, Platkin said the DGE would also make it easier for people with a gambling problem to add their names to the state’s voluntary self-exclusion lists that are circulated to casinos and gambling-related affiliates.
Instead of meeting in person with a state official or applying online, people can now add themselves to the list through video conferencing, while a 24-hour telephone helpline will also be established to answer questions about self-exclusion and to help people sign up.
“We don’t write initiatives on stone tablets,” Platkin said of the new responsible gaming and advertising guidelines, which have not yet been adopted as formal regulations.
“We want to make sure it is working. We want to constantly evaluate it and the beauty of this partnership that is being data-driven is that we can evaluate it so we can see what is working and if we are capturing the right problem gamblers.
“If not then we can get around a table and figure it out,” he added.