New Jersey Readying Responsible Gambling Guidelines

July 8, 2022
New Jersey’s online casinos and sportsbooks are being pushed to up their game on responsible gambling through new guidelines that will require implementation by next year of systems to flag signs of problematic player behavior.


New Jersey’s online casinos and sportsbooks are being pushed to up their game on responsible gambling through new guidelines that will require implementation by next year of systems to flag signs of problematic player behavior.

New guidelines or best practices for responsible gambling were shared last month by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) with the state’s online gambling operators, following a similar recent focus on cybersecurity and fraud that has led to heightened know your customer (KYC) requirements.

The state’s responsible gambling best practices will require operators to hire dedicated responsible gambling staff to share information and resources with at-risk patrons.

Operators’ systems will have to automatically trigger an alert and an intervention whenever a player shows possible signs of harm based on their account activity.

The DGE recognizes that compliance with the guidelines will require a lot of work in terms of software development and analytics, David Rebuck, the agency’s director, said at last week’s International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA) International Gaming Summit in Boston.

But the regulator is also mindful that any perception of not doing enough to protect at-risk players is a potential “Achilles heel” for the online gaming industry, and the new standards will allow for operators to have “a better frontal attack” in that area.

“We believe this will be a great tool to assist in responsible gambling efforts in the state of New Jersey,” Rebuck said.

The DGE director said the best practices had been worked on for more than nine months after first coming into focus during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when Atlantic City casinos were closed and only online gaming was available in New Jersey.

Adjacent concerns of cyber-attacks and attempted fraud led to the adoption of a new DGE policy on KYC, which includes tracking of player devices and requiring all players to undergo a two-factor authentication login process for their accounts for each device at least once every two weeks.

Like those requirements, the new responsible gambling best practices will not involve a formal change to New Jersey’s regulations for internet gaming or sports wagering, which already include various responsible gambling measures, including requiring an acknowledgement from each player once a threshold of $2,500 in deposits is reached.

The new best practices will require an intervention by the operator based on certain triggered activity, including deposits of more than a certain amount, potentially $10,000, within a 24-hour period; players accessing a self-exclusion page but not excluding; repeated requests to cancel withdrawals; or requests for a second cooling-off period within 45 days.

Systems also must be able to trigger when a player materially increases the amount of time or money spent compared with prior weeks, or if multiple sessions in a week ended with the player having less than $1 left in their account.

Players triggering the alerts would initially receive interventions to raise their awareness of responsible gambling tools and resources, before a more direct intervention by a trained problem gambling expert if warranted.

Responsible Gambling In Focus

The DGE’s Rebuck was not the only regulator to address responsible gambling initiatives at the IAGA summit, where the nexus between responsible gambling and advertising was one core theme.

Massachusetts Gaming Commission chair Cathy Judd-Stein, along with the commission’s director of research and responsible gambling, Mark Vander Linden, highlighted an ongoing effort to establish new regulations on gambling advertising in the Commonwealth.

A final draft white paper with recommendations for new advertising regulations was published last month.

The initiative is being pursued only partly in anticipation of a flood of ads should Massachusetts lawmakers reach agreement this month on sports-betting legislation, Judd-Stein said.

“Regardless of what happens with sports wagering before the end of the session, we will turn back to that,” she said of the advertising proposals.

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario’s (AGCO) standards for internet gaming already have a strong emphasis on responsible gambling, said Lizzie Yeigh, the AGCO’s chief strategy officer.

Among other things, those standards include a ban on certain game features and bonuses or other inducements in advertising, as well as a requirement for operators to “monitor player risk profiles and behaviours for the purpose of detecting signs of players potentially experiencing harm.”

The next step for responsible gambling in Ontario will be a province-wide self-exclusion system, which should be implemented “within the next year” for iGaming and then extended to land-based gambling, Yeigh said.

Speaking at the IAGA summit, Rebuck praised the provisions of New Jersey’s 2013 internet gaming law that require an independent annual report related to problem gambling and said he was proud of the industry for agreeing to share anonymized transaction data with Rutgers University since the study began in 2014.

The most recent Rutgers report, published last year based on 2018 player data, showed only 6.6 percent of New Jersey players used responsible gambling tools and recommended implementation of an early warning system for certain play patterns, as well as incorporation of responsible gambling features into the account sign-up process.

The coming years should lead to significant new academic research on responsible and problem gambling, including the impact of advertising which is “very difficult to study,” Christine Reilly, senior research director for the International Center of Responsible Gambling, told IAGA summit delegates.

Another driver of responsible gambling initiatives could be the investment community, particularly as companies are being obliged to demonstrate their commitment to ESG as part of loan agreements, said Phil O’Shaughnessy, vice president of global communications and sustainability for IGT.

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