New Jersey Problem Gambling Rate Drops, But Widespread Gaming Increases Risks

October 3, 2023
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The prevalence of high-risk problem gambling may have decreased slightly in New Jersey over the last five years, but researchers believe their findings from a recent survey underscore the increased risk associated with more legal forms of wagering available in the state.
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The prevalence of high-risk problem gambling may have decreased in New Jersey over the last five years, but researchers say their findings from a recent survey underscore the increased risk associated with more legal forms of wagering available in the state.

Among a series of recommendations in their second recent study on the prevalence of gambling in New Jersey, Rutgers University researchers highlighted the need for “thoughtful consideration of the impacts of continued gambling expansion,” as well as for the potential to regulate advertising that “targets particular groups or provides misleading promises.”

Mitigation of potential problem gambling is further complicated by the number of agencies that regulate various forms of gambling in the state, with responsibilities shared across the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) for land-based and online casino gaming and sports betting, the New Jersey Racing Commission for horseracing, the Casino Control Commission for casino licensing matters, the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission for charitable gaming, and the New Jersey Lottery.

“Those agencies have separate policies governing responsible gambling, including varying terms for self-exclusion and requirements for sign up,” Rutgers University researchers wrote in their report for the DGE.

“Going forward, establishing best practices will necessitate the development of uniform regulations around responsible gambling initiatives and practices, including online access to self-exclusion sign-up and limit-setting features, in a way that is the least stigmatizing for individual consumers.”

Such regulations would, ideally, require that all individuals who gamble, irrespective of venue type, have access to one uniform online portal for accessing limit-setting features and problem gambling tutorials and materials, according to the Rutgers report titled “The Prevalence of Online and Land-Based Gambling in New Jersey.”

Researchers also recommended that initiating cool-off features and self-exclusion can be done by gamblers remotely “without the need to call or drive to locations where they might be recognized by others.”

The Rutgers report, a follow-up to an initial prevalence study published in 2017, surveyed 3,512 New Jersey residents in 2021 regarding their gambling activities.  

Overall, about 61 percent, or 2,149 of those surveyed, reported gambling in the past year, down from around 70 percent in the prior prevalence survey released in 2017. 

The survey also found the state’s rate of “high-risk” problem gambling had declined from 6.3 percent to 5.6 percent. These gamblers would be classified as having a “gambling disorder” in other academic studies, researchers said.

“High-risk gambling seems to trend younger, though there are a variety of factors,” Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies at Rutgers University School of Social Work and the report's principal author, said Monday (October 2).

“The average age for sports wagering in our studies is about 38, while online casino is around 48 and land-based a bit older,” Nower told Vixio GamblingCompliance. “Online and mixed venue [gamblers] are the highest risk categories for problems so it would make sense that more high-risk problems would be reported in the emerging/young adult groups versus middle/older adults.”

The proportion of online-only gamblers in New Jersey nearly tripled from 5 percent prior to the legalization of sports betting in 2017 to almost 15 percent in 2021, while the proportion of individuals who gambled both online and at land-based casinos nearly doubled from 19 percent to 36 percent.

When asked Monday how researchers accounted for the decline in “high-risk” problem gambling despite the wider availability of gambling, Nower said the survey “just measured prevalence not causality.”

“But the data was collected not long after COVID so I'm suspecting that had some effect,” said Nower.

“The proportion of people who gambled in the past year had also declined a bit too. It was a weird time to collect data ... . We'll see what the next one brings,” she told Vixio in an email.

Despite the decline in the prevalence rate, the state’s rate of problem gambling remains three times higher than the national average, according to the 59-page report released on September 28. Those categorized as gamblers with low to moderate-risk activity also decreased from about 15 percent to about 13 percent.

Researchers surveyed more than 3,512 residents over the age of 18 between December 2020 and April 2021 to analyze their self-reported patterns of gambling.

Respondents were asked about their participation in all of the state’s legal forms of gambling, including different forms of casino gaming, sports betting, fantasy sports, lottery games, esports wagering, pari-mutuel wagering on horse races and high-risk stock trading. 

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