Keith Whyte: Technology is ‘value neutral’ when it comes to problem gambling

Keith Whyte: Technology is ‘value neutral’ when it comes to problem gambling
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Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG), sat down with SBC Americas to discuss the rapid expansion of sports betting and igaming markets in North America, 50 years of the NCPG, and his panel session at next month’s Canadian Gaming Summit

SBC Americas: Hi Keith. Thanks for your time. North America is seeing new markets open regularly in recent years with more on the way. But what impact is the NCPG expecting to see on problem gambling in the coming months as a result? 

KW: We said all the way back in 2018 that expanded gambling will result in increases in the rate and severity of gambling problems unless comprehensive and well-funded measures are put in place to mitigate the harm. 

While 2/3 of states and most provinces have at least put additional public funds into problem gambling prevention and treatment programs, roughly 1/3 of US states did little or nothing. 

So we expect the risk of gambling problems will increase across the board, but the negative impacts may fall heaviest on those jurisdictions that chose to take no responsibility for the costs of gambling addiction.

SBC Americas: What guidance is the NCPG giving to both operators and players in terms of staying safe when gambling, particularly in the online space?

KW: Since 2012 we have provided a set of Internet Responsible Gambling Standards to guide operators, vendors, regulators and players. Many of the IRGS provisions were modeled on Canadian regulations. 

We appreciate the leadership role of Ontario’s Responsible Gambling Council in player protection and believe their work in the province has resulted in some of the highest and best responsible gambling standards in North America.

SBC Americas: For those who are attending your session at the Canadian Gaming Summit, can you give a sneak peek into what discussions may arise? 

KW: Where is the risk for gambling addiction most concentrated in the population? How can we get all stakeholders to work together to minimize harm? How to best use technology to reduce risk?

SBC Americas: The NCPG is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, and across those 50 years has been vast technological change and a complete transformation of the gambling industry. How do you keep up and adjust to such changes, especially with Web3 and crypto-based gambling in the pipeline?

KW: I believe that technology is value-neutral – it is how we use it that leads to net positive or net negative impacts. The gambling industry has been at the forefront of technological change and will continue to do so. The challenge is to get them to spend as much time and money working on how to minimize harm as well as maximize revenue. Finding that balance is the key to sustainability.

SBC Americas: Can you give a glimpse into your plans going into the rest of this year? 

KW: The expansion of legalized sports betting presents a number of policy and clinical challenges, but also provides opportunities to engage with a broader group of stakeholders including the professional sports leagues. 

We continue to monitor responsible gambling technology and programs around the world and work to integrate them into US regulations and operations. We look forward to announcing some very exciting partnerships and projects this year.

Keith Whyte will be speaking at the Canadian Gaming Summit which takes place June 7-9 at Metro Toronto Convention Center, Toronto, Ontario.