Massachusetts’ sports betting bill and legislature drew praise for its work towards responsible gambling before its launch, but it wouldn’t be a blockbuster panel without some disagreements on specific restrictions on sports betting legislation.
SBC Summit Barcelona enjoyed plenty of US based content throughout the agenda, with the session “US Market Review: Balancing Player Protection and Growth” proving particularly popular on the Player Protection Symposium track.
Brianne Dora-Schawohl, Founder and CEO of Dora-Schawohl Consulting, was particularly keen to laud the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for its work on RG research and not being influenced by external markets in reaching conclusions.
She explained: “I couldn’t be more impressed with Massachusetts’ commitment to really understanding the implications, but from a social and an economic side about operating sports wagering, they did this.
Similarly when they legalised casino gambling, we didn’t have casino gambling until 2011 in the state, and one of the core aspects to legalisation was commissioning research around both the social and economic implications and how they were going to curb rates of addiction.
“What I really respect about their Director of Responsible Gambling, Dr. Mark Vanderlinden, is that he really did ask myself and others about what research exists to support some of these things. And so it’s not just about making knee jerk reactions or saying, ‘Oh, well, the UK has done this or the likes of another market, and we should as well’, they really are trying to learn from others gather an exorbitant amount of information and move forward in a way that I think makes sense and best protects the market.”
Joining Dora-Schawohl on the panel was Alan Feldman, Chair of the International Center for Responsible Gambling; Jamie Debono, MD of iGaming Academy; Dan Spencer, Director of Safer Gambling for Epic Risk Management; and Bill Pascrell III, Principal at Princeton Public Affairs Group.
Feldman echoed the notion that Massachusetts is ‘trying to do the right thing’ when it comes to RG, before adding ‘they just don’t know what that is yet.’
He remarked: “They are going to do some things now that the baseline answer to the question. Is there any research to support any of these policies? The answer is no. There is research that kind of points at some of it. Right? Gambling should not be advertised to children, period.
“But the notion, for example, that people who gamble online are have a greater likelihood of being involved in problem gambling. Maybe what is true, what has been shown is that people who gamble in multiple forms have a greater likelihood to be involved in problem gambling, that should tell the industry something and try and tell the regulator something.
“But does that mean banning all advertising? I doubt it.”
The conversation quickly turned to the use of credit cards in gambling, which caused some heated debate amongst the panelists. A former gambling addict, Spencer was clear from the outset that credit cards should not be allowed to be used for gambling, warning of the debt that could cause problem gamblers.
“I know the culture between the UK and the US and credit card expenditure is very different. However, a gambler that is in trouble is deep in addiction will resort to borrowing loans, credit cards, payday loans, we know that and taking that option away is one way of tackling.
“My personal opinion is I don’t think it should be there. But I can see the argument for why it would be. But mostly it’s about education and empowering that player base to to make their own choices. If you take choice away from them, they’ll find a way around it.”
In a true lobbyists form, Pascrell was passionate in his argument that a credit card ban is ‘a horrible idea’, adding that its only accomplishment is turning players towards the black market.
Pascrell passionately outlined: “Banning credit cards is ridiculous. And I told Senator Lessor that when he was pushing the bill through, I think that Governor Charlie Baker understands this industry very well. Credit cards only push a whole segment of the industry to the black market.
“They’re gonna gamble, whether you like it or not, you must regulate, you must have as many opportunities as you can. But what this is all about is really penetrating with good academic research, and real therapeutics and real treatments.”