American Gaming Association research raises an interesting question

What was particularly striking from attending last week’s ICE exhibition and conferences was the yawning gap between the UK on the one hand and the U.S. on the other in terms of social responsibility and player protection requirements.

We are not for one moment suggesting that responsible gambling is not a matter of concern for U.S. gambling operators and regulators alike. Indeed, in a press release published today, the AGA states that “the U.S. gaming industry commits more than $300 million to responsible gaming annually, supporting education, training and rehabilitation programs across the country”.

However, it was conceded by some from the U.S. to whom we spoke at ICE that the measures in place to mitigate against gambling-related harm in their country are considerably less than those required of licensed gambling operators by the Gambling Commission here in the UK, notwithstanding higher rates of problem gambling prevalence in some parts of the U.S. than the “statistically stable” such rates in the UK.

That gap in terms of social responsibility and player protection measures may reduce though, dependent on the outcome of work being undertaken by the Responsible Gaming Collaborative, established last year by the American Gaming Association (“AGA”) to:

  • conduct a comprehensive review of current responsible gaming policies and regulations,
  • identify programs that work and those that fail to meet their objective,
  • study regulations to determine which are based on solid evidence,
  • determine whether government resources are being properly targeted toward effective programs and prevention,
  • develop a set of recommendations and industry best practices and
  • work with regulators and other stakeholders to understand the best approaches.

At a time when the social responsibility regulatory burdens on the UK gambling industry are getting ever more burdensome whilst, at the same time in the UK, public trust in the industry has plummeted, it is interesting to see statistics published today by the AGA, reported in a press release under the heading “New Research Reveals 90 Percent of Casino Visitors Practice Responsible Gaming” and sub-headingAcceptance of Gaming at All-Time High”, that paint a very different picture of public attitudes towards gambling in the U.S. than exist in the UK.

According to the AGA, those statistics (based on an online and phone survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted by the Mellman Group) indicate that:

  • 88% of American adults view gambling as an acceptable form of entertainment,
  • 80% recognise gaming’s role as a job creator, and
  • 60% believe that casinos help their local economies

and follow a recent AGA-commissioned survey of 2,014 past year casino gamblers, that indicated that:

  • 90% of casual gamblers set a budget before they visit a casino,
  • 90% of those visitors report success in tracking their spending, and
  • 80% of casual casino visitors and 90% of “avid casino visitors” are aware of responsible gaming resources.

Given the positive attitudes towards gambling evidenced by the above statistics, it is perhaps not surprising that, according to further research findings announced in an AGA press release on 30 January 2019:

  • as many as 63% of Americans support last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down the federal ban on sports betting and
  • 80% support legalising sports betting in their states.

The AGA welcomed those findings, adding comment that it “will continue to advocate for the inclusion of sensible gaming policies wherever it is being considered, including consumer protections and reasonable tax rates that enable the legal, regulated market to compete with illegal bookies and offshore operators.”

As developments in the gambling field (including online betting) proceed apace in the U.S. it will be intriguing to see (a) to what extent increased levels of gambling regulatory concern arise there in the same way that they have reared their head in recent times here in the U.K. and (b) whether the U.S. industry reacts to those concerns in a manner that succeeds in avoiding the degree of regulatory crackdown that has been experienced by UK operators since 2014 or thereabouts.

That of course will depend how open-minded the American industry is to learn from the experiences of (including the mistakes made by) its UK counterparts.

If any operators or prospective operators in the U.S. would like the benefit of our very many years’ experience advising both land-based and online gambling operators on this side of the Atlantic (including both start-ups and world renowned gambling operators and in relation to both new licence applications and defending licences under threat of revocation for regulatory failings), they are invited to make contact with us.

David Clifton and Suzanne Davies will be in New York and New Jersey on 23-25 April 2019 for SBC Events‘ inaugural Betting on Sports America conference and exhibition, the agenda for which is available here. Tying in with all of our above comments, David is speaking in the first panel session on Conference Day 1 on the subject of “Avoiding the pitfalls – lessons to learn from other regulated markets”. We hope to see you there. Registration details are available here.