Two new responsible gambling initiatives filed by Illinois lawmakers are a step in the right direction. So said Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling in an interview with PlayIllinois.
The first comes from a house version Illinois online casino bill filed by Representative Jonathan Carroll. The bill includes a provision that $10 million “from the tax revenue deposited in the State Gaming Fund under this Act shall be paid annually to the Department of Human Services for the administration of programs to treat problem gambling.”
Whyte said the promise of new funding coming in tandem with the legalization of online casinos in Illinois is progress. The NCPG has long advocated that 1% of gambling revenue be spent on responsible gambling initiatives.
New funding would more than double what Illinois spends now
In fiscal year 2021, Illinois ranked 11th in the US in terms of per capita public funds dedicated to problem gambling services. It spent $6.8 million, about half of 1% of its $1.358 billion in tax revenue, on responsible gambling.
An additional $10 million annually would help, Whyte said.
“I do think that rapid legalization [of gambling] often comes with a collection of backlash. And I hope that Illinois is seeing that and trying to get ahead of it,” Whyte said.
“They have underfunded problem gambling services for so long since they legalized retail casinos and before that when they just had lottery and before that, horse racing. So, if it takes going online for them to get closer to that 1% that’s a good step.”
Whyte added that as gambling becomes normalized, so too should the prevention and treatment of problem gambling. After all, it helps sustain the entire gambling industry.
“It helps players, it helps the state and it helps increase economic benefits by reducing the social costs.”
RG pop-up messages after every 10 Illinois sports bets
Meanwhile, a separate bill in the Illinois Senate would amend the Sports Wagering Act.
Filed by Senator Bill Cunningham, SB1508 would “require an online sports wagering licensee to, after every 10 wagers made online by an individual, display a pop-up message directing that individual to websites on gambling addiction help.”
Again, Whyte said the legislation has the right intentions.
“I think that the concept is good. And I think the more we use data to try and personalize responses, to get the messages to people, the better off we are,” said Whyte (below).
However, he did find the fact a message would pop up after every 10 bets something of an “arbitrary” number.
“It sounds like it was just a good round number that someone thought up, but I think it needs some research and feedback and then, more importantly, tailoring and customizing,” he said.
“For some people [10 is] too low, for some people that’s too high. So, using data is important, but the better we can get at personalizing the data, much like industry does to market to people, the more we can personalize responsible gambling messages and the more effective they’re going to be.”
He added responsible gambling messages would be more effective if they popped up after a bettor’s wagering pattern changes.
“Generally, the science shows that really what you want to look for is changes in behavior,” Whyte said. “And that’s when these automated systems can kick in. But again, it’s not a bad thing. Every 10 bets, if that’s going to help one person stop or get help, it’s good. But I think the more we customize it to individual player performance, the more effective those messages can be.”
Senate version of Illinois online casino bill also has RG provisions
The Senate version of the Internet Gaming Act, SB1656, filed by Senator Cristina Castro, also has responsible gambling initiatives in it, including:
- A requirement that the Illinois Gaming Board develop responsible gaming measures, including a statewide gaming database of those excluded from gambling.
- Mechanisms to verify that gambling customers are 21 or older.
- Each gaming site shall display the words, “If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (toll-free telephone number)” or comparable language approved by IGB.
- Each gaming app shall include mechanisms for temporary and permanent self-exclusion.
“I think things are, generally, going in the right direction,” Whyte said. “I’m optimistic that government and gambling industry is further supporting, good responsible gambling.”