In 2020, the US gambling industry employed over 117,000 people and is expected to employ 24% more over the coming decade.

Hiring Is Becoming A Challenge In The Expanding US Online Gambling Market

Online gambling operators need personnel with specialized knowledge, but their existing staff only have so much bandwidth. That’s a problem, because legal online betting is expanding rapidly across the US and Canada. Therefore, online gambling operators have to hire more staffers, but they say they’re finding a paucity of skilled candidates.

The solution is to hire smart people and train them in industry best practices, advised Anna Sainsbury, chairwoman and founder of GeoComply. Her company – headquartered in West Vancouver, British Columbia – provides user geolocation software used by most Canadian and US online gambling operators.

Sainsbury spoke during a Sept. 13 webinar hosted by a nonprofit trade association, iDevelopment and Economic Association (iDEA) Growth:

“We are tight on talent. … If you go back to the early days when the US market was smaller, there was that set group that really understood what the principles were. And that was also because there were fewer bills to consider, and we really knew the fundamentals of what was opening up the market. But now the market is so much bigger. And we have institutional investments. Many of the companies have gone public. We are growing at this rapid rate.

“Training and really educating our teams internally on what those practices are is a hurdle that the industry is having to overcome as we mature. … We need people to come into our industry, because we need more talent. We need more creativity, we need more innovation. But we also need to make sure that we transfer our knowledge to those people who are coming in.”

Legal online gambling operators are new to Americans

The main reason it makes sense for online gambling operators to hire and train workers on the job is the industry is new to most Americans. That’s why operators are spending so much on online gambling brand awareness campaigns – to educate bettors that this legal option exists in the first place.

So grizzled veterans working for online gambling operators may be able to measure their tenure in months – not years, as in other industries.

Sainsbury herself is a testament to that. During her talk, The Do’s and Do Not’s of Advertising and iGaming, at iDEA Growth’s Power Lunch Summit Webinar, she spoke of the “early days” of online gambling and sports betting as if they were ancient history. However, she founded her company just a decade ago, in 2011.

Outside of Nevada, US online and retail sportsbooks have only been legal since May 2018. Given that many states have only gone about legalizing online casinos after or alongside sports betting, many iGaming apps are likewise only a couple of years old. Until very recently, the only online gambling most Americans had legal access to was fantasy sports, and even that is a fairly young industry.

How online gambling operators should train employees

Before getting into the specifics of state, provincial and federal laws, there are the basics. Certain rules apply to legal gambling sites wherever they operate. They have to adhere to the legal gambling age, perform know-your-customer checks and comply with anti-money laundering laws. They have to offer responsible gambling information, and ensure the integrity of their games.

Online gambling operators need to only serve individuals located within the jurisdictions where regulators approved their apps. Sainsbury’s tech verifies the location of online gamblers and online sports bettors, so that they’re legally placing wagers in their states and provinces. That’s an example of one of the restrictions new personnel hired by online gambling operators should know.

But then there are the areas where they have leeway.

For example, they should teach employees that promotions and other advertisements need to match that local permission. Officials from Colorado and New Jersey regulatory offices confirmed during the webinar that operators will need to get this right, and soon. Or they’ll lose the privilege of marketing self-regulation.

Daniel Hartman – director of the Colorado Division of Gaming (CDG) – said:

“We’ve seen people miss the things that are important in our state.”

For instance, he saw a stationary online sports betting advertisement in a college stadium. In Colorado, like most states, betting is illegal for anyone under 21. That includes most college students, making it inappropriate to advertise in that context.

Operators will also have to update tech and communicate with vendors and third parties to ensure they’re not reaching out to or serving at-risk and problem gamblers. Especially those that self-excluded, said webinar panelist David L. Rebuck. He directs the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

That may mean operators should start working with responsible gambling (RG) groups, like nonprofits, on their content, he said.

Online gambling operators need to rein themselves in

Plus, if those operators work with third parties – such as marketing agencies – it’s important to ensure that work product complies with laws, too. Inexperienced hires can lead to compliance errors.

Michael Daly, CEO of Catena Media, said regulators are more set up to work with operators than advertisers, though. His company provides affiliate marketing to operators that often prefer not to share their problem gambler self-exclusion lists. As a result, email marketing can be difficult without an operator’s “black list.” (Note: Online Poker Report is part of the Catena Media network.)

“They need access to the self-excluded list,” Hartman seconded. “They change all of the time.”

In general, operators need to take a look at themselves the way others see them, Sainsbury said. Taking a “holistic view” of how Americans comprehend the gaming industry would help, because they don’t differentiate between legal online gambling, social gaming or offshore gambling.

Avoiding national ads that lump RG language together and make them look like prescription commercials would help.

Teaching the general public about operators can help, too. GeoComply provided the initial funding and tech for nonprofit Conscious Gaming (CG), which recently ran an educational marketing campaign to teach Americans the difference between legal and illegal online gambling apps. For the webinar, she listed her profession as being a CG board trustee.

Rebuck advised operators to take these and other measures while they still had the luxury of self-regulation – especially with their marketing.

He said:

“You shouldn’t be waiting on the regulators to drive the bus on this one.”

If operators do wait and state oversight happens, Rebuck said they “won’t really be happy” with it.

The expansion of US iGaming is relentless

Operators need to add that employee training into business practices now, the webinar panelists said.

Because online gambling demand is only going to grow as new states launch legal online casinos. Connecticut plans to launch online sports betting and online casino simultaneously on Oct. 7. Online poker and iLottery sales may come later.

Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia already offer legal online casino gambling.

Online sports betting is legal in 21 states and DC. On Aug. 27, Canada legalized single-event sports betting and several provinces launched apps.

Matt Lee, spokesman for British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC) and its PlayNowSports online sportsbook, tweeted on Aug. 30 that the most popular first bet garnered $40,000 in wagers. That boxing match between YouTuber Jake Paul and mixed martial artist Tyron Woodley represented nearly 50% of the first day’s handle for PlayNowSports, according to Lee.

More than a week later in America, GeoComply tallied 58.2 million online sports bets in the US from Sept. 9 to 12, 2021. Those bets arriving from 18 states and Washington, DC, represented a 126% increase over the same time period in 2020, when 25.8 million transactions occurred, showed research released on Sept. 12.

In Arizona alone – which only launched online sports betting on Sept. 9, 2021 – bettors downloaded more than 271,000 apps from Sept. 9 to 12, GeoComply found.

Sainsbury concluded from that research that Americans are uninstalling illegal apps and downloading and depositing on legal ones. It means Americans want to obey laws and support legal online gambling operators, she said.

Expanding online gambling operators need personnel

Taking a look at employment with the Big Three BetMGM, DraftKings and FanDuel – those operators have nearly 5,000 employees, according to LinkedIn.

That, of course, isn’t the entire personnel picture – for many reasons.

First, there are far more than three online gambling operators. Second, LinkedIn doesn’t have the entire tally – even for the Big Three. BetMGM’s employees may list themselves as working for the operator’s owners, MGM Resorts International or Entain. FanDuel’s staffers may do the same, as it’s primarily owned by Flutter Entertainment.

Meanwhile, none of those figures factor in the vendors who serve them, like GeoComply – with its 270 employees on LinkedIn.

If operators contract with still other third parties, like marketing agencies or affiliate networks, the employment picture turns panoramic. For instance, Catena Media has 432 employees listed on LinkedIn.

As of 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) counted 117,100 gambling services workers. That number is going to soar a further 24% by 2030, according to BLS.

However, the BLS numbers don’t separate out online gambling employees. In fact, it doesn’t even mention them in the job category:

“Gambling services workers serve customers in gambling establishments, such as casinos or racetracks.”

The good news for operators is BLS reported in July 2021 that online gambling personnel work fewer hours and produce more than the average gambling industry employee. According to the bureau:

“Online gambling requires far fewer labor hours than traditional casino operations. As a result, hours worked fell even more than output in gambling industries in 2020. The pandemic’s impact combined with the rise in online activity caused labor productivity to make a big jump, rising 16.2 percent. This was the largest single year increase in the productivity index since 2002.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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