If a national expansion of legal sports betting legislation is on the horizon, Keith Whyte wants to ensure that potential problem gamblers are atop the minds of lawmakers.
Whyte is the head of the National Council of Problem Gambling, which released this month a set of guidelines designed to provide a framework for legislators and lobbyists working on sports betting. NCPG’s board set the initial framework for this in principle last year and refined it into actionable steps as a decision in the New Jersey sports betting case looms.
“Everyone recognizes there’s a seismic change coming in the industry,” said Whyte. “The board of directors put together that initial resolution that kind of laid out their 30,000-[foot]-level approach, kind of the broader strategic view of what the issues were. We wanted to drill down one level, especially for legislators and regulators.”
Leagues asked for help in drafting guidelines for legislation
NCPG’s fundamental argument centers on corporate and social responsibility for all parties in sports betting:
“Everyone who profits from sports betting bears responsibility for gambling problems. The only ethical and economical way to maximize benefits from sports betting is to minimize problem gambling harm. Therefore any governmental body and sports league that receives a direct percentage or portion of sports betting revenue must also dedicate funds to prevent and treat gambling problems.”
The timing of NCPG’s guidelines coincides with active efforts in nearly 20 states and Congress to legalize some form of sports betting. More acutely, Whyte said NCPG reacted following conversations with leagues including the NBA and Major League Baseball.
“We were asked by the leagues specifically to further operationalize our positions,” Whyte said. “We were asked to provide specific points and specific things that we would like to see in legislation.”
MLB’s push in Missouri reflects that idea, including basic problem gambling protocols and minimum standards for advertisements related to sports betting. Collaboration should come with at least that much investment from leagues, Whyte said.
“They’re also taking responsibility for the problem,” Whyte said of leagues seeking profit via integrity fees. “We are very interested and eager to see them really step up to the plate.”
Funding to make the guidelines happens is unclear
NCPG puts forward five tenets:
- Ensure that any expansion of sports gambling includes dedicated funds to prevent and treat gambling addiction.
- Require sports betting operators to implement responsible gaming programs which include comprehensive employee training, self-exclusion, ability to set limits on time and money spent betting, and specific requirements for the inclusion of help/prevention messages in external marketing.
- Assign a regulatory agency to enforce the regulations and requirements that are enacted.
- Conduct surveys of the prevalence of gambling addiction prior to expansion and at regular periods thereafter in order to monitor impacts of legalized sports betting and have data that will support evidence-based mitigation efforts.
- Establish a consistent minimum age for sports gambling and related fantasy games.
The guidelines set out a lofty funding goal of one percent of net revenue to be set aside for problem gambling efforts. Whyte said that goal is especially important for states that currently have no regulatory structure in place for gaming that they can draw on to address sports betting.
“The upfront costs are daunting,” Whyte said.
NCPG also asserts that dedicated funding be required for a state to legalize sports betting.