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One important difference between regulated and unregulated gambling options is that the former include responsible gambling tools. BetMGM has recently expanded its options in that regard by adding a new program to help curb problem gambling. The program, GameSense, will be integrated into its online casino, poker and sportsbook apps this year.
BetMGM made the announcement on April 20. It has been offering responsible gaming education all along, in other forms. Indeed, two other market-leading apps, FanDuel and DraftKings, are invested in the area, as well.
One of the challenges for gambling companies is that most such tools expect problem gamblers to self-select. Similar problems crop us elsewhere. Surveys by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) ask respondents to assess their own problem gambling behaviors. Some have that self-awareness; in research released last month, 7% of respondents told NCPG they’d experienced at least one of the problem gambling behaviors “many times.”
Self-reporting doesn’t equate to self-control, though, according to research from the Journal of Gambling Studies. The same problem gamblers who identify themselves to iGaming and online sports betting providers may not be able to self-regulate their addictions. So the question remains about how effective opt-in responsible gambling programs can be for problem gamblers.
MGM Resorts International began providing customers with GameSense educational resources in 2017. At each M life Rewards desks, retail casino patrons can find touchscreens with GameSense information, according to the BetMGM announcement.
However, BetMGM is the first operator in the US to adopt GameSense for online use. The need for the program developed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) is timely, considering the pace at which states are legalizing sports betting and online gambling.
For BetMGM, the expansion means it’ll have many more customers to educate, with an expected $1 billion in revenue in 2022. As of February 2021, BetMGM reported it was the iGaming market leader – with a 23% share. Factoring in mobile sports betting as well, the company considers itself “on course” to be the No. 2 provider of online gambling products in the US, according to an Apr. 21 statement for BetMGM Investor Day.
GameSense uses a variety of methods to reach gamblers and the app integration will include responsible gambling tools and education. GameSense Advisors will be available to players who want to interact with a real person. The program’s content, as visible on its site, ranges from memory games that test players’ responsible gaming knowledge, to a “managing your play” checklist.
BetMGM’s competitors for the top spot in the market also offer responsible gaming content and tools.
DraftKings Communications Director Stephen Miraglia told Online Poker Report on April 22:
“We have RG tools (limit setting, cool off and self-exclusion) on all platforms and have information and resources for help with links to various external groups.”
On March 24, FanDuel owner Flutter added Gamban to its platforms. This is a free tool to block online gambling and sportsbook offerings, which goes beyond the minimum regulatory requirements for self-exclusion. Gamban’s blocking software is now free to install for players who chose to “self-exclude from FanDuel’s real-money gaming sites or who identify as having a gambling problem.”
Pending regulatory approval, customers will be able to opt in to the service and install the software on up to 15 devices. This won’t just exclude them from FanDuel’s products. It will also block them from “thousands of gambling sites,” the FanDuel Group’s announcement said.
Flutter’s North American partnership with Gamban will also see the tool available through the company’s other brands including TVG, Betfair, Stardust, Fox Bet, PokerStars and Stars Casino.
BetMGM is also developed a self-exclusion tool, PlayPause, which is slated to launch in September. Its site says:
“We are in the early-stages of launching with state regulators and operators.”
One potential problem with even FanDuel’s offer to help its customers with self-exclusion lies in the “self” part. It relies on the gambler themselves to be both self-aware and proactive.
Even when problem gamblers do take the step of blocking online gambling and sports betting options, one of Gamban’s most frequently asked questions is how to uninstall it. Fortunately, anyone who’s opted in can’t uninstall Gamban until the self-exclusion period ends. Still, many can and do uninstall it at that point.
The Journal of Gambling Studies’ research about self-reporting problem gamblers summarizes the problem neatly:
“Problems with self-control are seen as a key cause of problem gambling behavior.”
Going by the findings of this research, the BetMGM and GameSense partnership may encounter the same problem. That is, GameSense may more easily be able to help those who have better self-control to begin with than those at the highest risk. However, research into problem online gambling is still in its infancy, and it’s important that companies are making an effort.