New Jersey gaming regulators have published the first research report into the impact of the state’s regulated online gambling market on problem gambling.
The report (viewable here), which was submitted by Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies’ Lia Nower, covers the first full year of New Jersey’s online market. The study is the first of four annual reports that Gov. Chris Christie insisted upon when he approved the state’s online gambling legislation in February 2013.
Of the three states that have launched regulated online gambling operations, Nower says New Jersey’s regulations are “the most clearly directed toward aiding consumers in making informed choices about their gambling behavior and promoting responsible gambling (RG).”
In overall terms, Nower says “very few” gamblers utilized any of the RG features. Nower also said that the data couldn’t distinguish players who selected these options at multiple online skins, meaning the actual take-up rate could be even lower than the numbers indicate.
Of the various RG safeguards available, the most popular proved to be the option to set deposit limits, which was utilized by 6,851 players (1.3% of the total). The second most popular option was setting a three-day cooling off period, which was utilized by 5,465 gamblers (1.04%). The least popular options were the one-year and five-year self-exclusion from all state-licensed sites, which were exercised by just 441 players (0.08%) and 314 players (0.06%) respectively.
Of those who set deposit limits, 73% later chose to change these limits, although the data doesn’t indicate whether these new limits were higher, lower or eliminated entirely. Similarly, of those who set loss limits, 53.5% later revised these limits. Interestingly, the state’s casino-only skins accounted for just 26.1% of players who set limits.
The report also breaks down age and gender demographics for those who accessed RG features. This revealed the presence of at least one 104-year-old female at an unidentified casino site. (You go, girl!) The overall mean age for male online gamblers utilizing RG options was 37 years while the mean female age was 10 years older.
The skins with the highest percentages of female players who set limits were casino-only sites, while sites that also offered poker skewed younger and male. Some casino/poker skins’ RG users were nearly 80% male.
Younger players were more likely to choose the cooling off period followed by loss limits, while middle-aged players preferred deposit limits then cooling off periods and older adults opted for cooling off then deposit limits.
Nower suggested that a possible reason for the low uptake of RG options was that they are “difficult to access and to understand.” Nower said most skins “place some or all of the features within the player’s account tab, which may or may not be visible” from the home page. Nower also said the type in these messages was “very small” and explanations of the different features “severely limited.” Activity session clocks are “difficult to find, must less to see.”
Nower would like to see an RG features “educational component” supplied to players at the time of sign-up, which could only be completed once players had chosen to opt-in or out of various RG choices. Nower also suggested a more restrictive Facebook-style alternative that would automatically set default limits, which a player would then have to manually change.
Nower wants to see a standardized presentation of the RG options across all New Jersey sites, such as a large “RG” icon in the same area of the home page of all skins, with links to an RG page with standardized content. A session clock could also be located in a similar position on each page, perhaps accompanied by an RG logo with links.
Nower believes these changes will not only increase New Jersey online gamblers’ use of RG features, it could provide a template that could be utilized “with new providers or with new state compacts should internet gaming continue to expand offerings and encompass more jurisdictions.”