Operators Must Take Greater Responsibility in Protecting Customers from Gambling Harms
The expansion of regulated gambling in the United States has been staggering in recent years, generating nearly $100 billion in total wagers for the 2022 calendar year alone. This expansion has yielded more than $7.5 billion in revenue for operators. However, alongside this expansion comes a measurable increase in problem gambling, and a corresponding need for better customer protections.
One of the primary reasons for this increase in problem gambling is the bad behaviour of operators. Advertising for gambling has reached unprecedented levels, with the most prominent operators spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on traditional and digital marketing. Sportsbooks are forming alliances with teams and leagues, further integrating gambling into the fabric of American sports. Even college sports, where the on-campus audience is largely underage, are not immune. At least one major US operator has already faced fines for marketing directly to university students.
These same sportsbooks also give away hundreds of millions of dollars in free and boosted bets, which can entice customers into playing more often. This combination of advertising and promotions can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable customers, leading to addiction and other forms of harm.
The United States is not alone in its indulgence of gambling. Other jurisdictions have had to reckon with the process of regulating this industry from scratch, leading to public outcry and the need for strong intervention from policymakers. Over-advertising is often the low-hanging fruit in these cases.
France, for example, has attacked this issue head-on, starting with a stern warning from the regulator ANJ in 2021. This warning eventually led to a new set of rules that govern the tone of advertisements and cap bonuses for customers. Similar reevaluations have recently occurred in Holland, Belgium, and Germany, among others. The established gambling industry in the UK even appears to be on the verge of sweeping reform, pending recommendations from a long-awaited white paper.
Given an inch, operators have largely taken a mile in their efforts to carve out a market share that’s big enough to keep their shareholders happy. The race to acquire customers has turned into a full-on sprint, and the corresponding increase in addiction has exposed inadequacies in the current support system. People are being harmed, and it’s time to stop looking the other way.
US regulators are starting to wise up and crack down on this behaviour. Two states, Maryland and Colorado, have so far revised their original laws to disallow promotional deductions. Efforts to change the landscape won’t stop there.
Regulators are starting to pay more attention, and some states are already considering more drastic interventions. Federal lawmakers have even floated the idea of an outright ban on all sports betting ads across television and radio.
However, the industry must impose self-corrections to provide real customer protection, avoid a severe regulatory crackdown, and build a more sustainable business. Protecting customers requires a more diligent effort from operators themselves, who represent the first line of defence against addiction and other forms of gambling-related harm. It requires more than compliance; it requires building real relationships with customers and making decisions that are in their best interest, not just the operators’ own. It also requires taking steps to make the world a better, more sustainable place outside of gambling. It requires a long-term, wide-lens view.
If operators do not look out for their customers and the future of this industry, then regulators will step in and certainly create standards that they may not want. New Jersey’s top regulator, David Rebuck, has already warned that the government will step in if the industry does not control itself.
Read the article from Svend Aage Kirk here on Gambling News Magazine: https://www.gamblingnews.com/news/svend-aage-kirk-protecting-customers-requires-a-more-diligent-effort-from-the-operators-themselves/