Maryland Watching NJ Online Sportsbook Policy To Flag Problem Gamblers

Written By David Danzis on February 17, 2023
Maryland Sports Betting

Maryland is relatively new to online gambling. However, it could soon join other states proactively trying to counteract potentially harmful digital behaviors.

Problem gambling experts say a new policy in New Jersey might be a good fit for the emerging Maryland online sports betting market, and Maryland regulators are taking notice.

Experts say Maryland should take tips from New Jersey

As of January, the Garden State requires online casino and sportsbook operators to monitor user activity for specific gambling addiction warning signs and reach out to those individuals directly. Maryland, which launched legal online sports betting in 2022, could be among a handful of states adopting similar requirements in the future if New Jersey’s experiment proves effective.

Michael Pollock, managing director and co-founder of consulting and analytics firm Spectrum Gaming Group, said New Jersey’s approach is “indicative of what will likely be an industry policy going forward.”

Pollock explained:

“Over the next five years, 10-plus states will have some form of model that emulates what New Jersey is doing.”

Maryland Lottery & Gaming ‘watching’ New Jersey

Gaming officials in states such as Maryland, Ohio and Massachusetts benefit from the collective regulatory experiences of others. Younger gambling markets can cherry-pick proven regulatory practices to avoid ineffective policies.

The newer legal gambling states also pay attention to changes in more-established regulatory markets. Maryland Lottery & Gaming said New Jersey has “developed an innovative approach that’s worth watching.”

In response to New Jersey’s proposed program, Maryland Gaming responded:

“As online wagering markets evolve, there is also a growing awareness of the need for player protections. Maryland Lottery and Gaming works closely with our state’s problem gambling treatment community, gaming operators and other stakeholders to collaborate on programs that assist problem gamblers. There is certainly room for a conversation about a program like the one in New Jersey.”

NJ policy is ‘step in the right direction’

Those who work directly with people suffering from gambling disorders say every legal jurisdiction could always be doing more. As new states embrace online gambling, the need for additional resources and tools increases further.

Nonetheless, progress is welcomed, said Felicia Grondin, executive director at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey.

“It’s a very good way to utilize the information that operators already have in an effort to help those who may be struggling with a problem. So I think it’s a great idea. It’s not an end all be all. But I think every effort to prevent people from developing a gambling problem or to help those that are already struggling is a step in the right direction.”

Truthfully, the Garden State’s online problem gambling policy is only new to the United States. The practice has been used by international gambling regulators for nearly a decade.

Keith Whyte, executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, said New Jersey is setting the domestic standard and hopes other states follow suit.

Whyte said:

“We strongly encourage other jurisdictions to adopt this (policy) and certainly encourage all operators to use their data for responsible gambling purposes voluntarily, even when and where they’re not required to.”

Effective responsible gambling is a ‘big-tent effort’

Richard Schuetz, a former casino executive and former state gaming regulator, is a vocal advocate of responsible gambling.

When considering New Jersey’s new policy and whether other states could emulate it, Schuetz is cautiously optimistic. He says it takes buy-in from all stakeholders.

“This has to be a big-tent effort . . . You need the operators, you need the regulators, you need the medical institutions, academic institutions, and, of course, consumers.”

Operators are being compelled to take the lead under New Jersey’s new online policy. This raises the question: Is that a workable strategy?

A common misconception is that casino companies are indifferent to — or worse, encourage — problem gambling, Schuetz said. Such perceptions often overlook the ways in which operators can, and often do, take steps to mitigate harm.

“The goal is sustainability. You start burning people out, and there are just all kinds of negative consequences . . . Nobody wants to wants to be involved in this industry, where the product is damaging people’s lives.”

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David Danzis

David Danzis is a lead writer and analyst for Catena Media's network of Play sites, appearing on PlayNJ, PlayCA, PlayOhio and PlayMaryland. He is a New Jersey native and an honors graduate of Rutgers University. As a newspaper reporter for the New Jersey Herald and Press of Atlantic City, David earned statewide awards for his coverage of politics, government, education, sports, and business. After years of reporting on Atlantic City casinos, NJ online gambling and sports betting, his focus is now on emerging gaming markets. David lives in Mays Landing, NJ with his wife and two children. When not on the beach, golf course, or the slopes, David enjoys watching his beloved New York sports teams — Yankees, Jets, Rangers, and Knicks.

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