Gaming researchers: ‘Pump the brakes’ on certain sports betting expansion initiatives Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · August 10, 2020 at 7:30 am Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ International Gaming Institute have suggested that public policymakers considering legalized sports betting need to take a step back from the process and consider the long-term strategies and implications of the activity that has grown at an accelerated pace in the last 27 months. In a report titled, “The Big Questions: Sports Wagering America,” researchers looked at the socio-economic impacts of legal sports betting, which is now available in 18 states. In the study, researchers wrote that different forms of gambling have unequal influences. “The types that score higher tend to emphasize job creation and minimize problem gambling harms, while the types that score lowest are those in the illegal sector – including a large illegal sports wagering market today,” UNLV researchers wrote in the executive summary of the study, which was released last week. “Depending on the nature of their business and the attractiveness of their offerings, online sports wagering entities can increase technology jobs and replace illegal consumption.” Bo Bernhard, executive director of the IGI, authored the report in collaboration with Jennifer Shatley, former gaming executive Jennifer Shatley, who is pursuing her Ph.D. at UNLV and is a research assistant at the IGI, and Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming at the IGI. Bernhard said the report’s findings suggest it might be a good time to “pump the brakes” on some of the initiatives surrounding the expansion of legal sports betting, such as sponsorships and other marketing activities. “As academics, we ask questions about everything, the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Bernhard said. “We looked at the key questions that are emerging in U.S. policy debates over legalizing sports wagering.” Some of the concerns centered around things found in all forms of legal gaming, including problem gambling, underage gambling, efforts toward cashless gaming, and how the activity is taking place in the current COVID-19 environment. The report was sponsored by the GVC Foundation U.S., which is backed by United Kingdom-based GVC Holdings, one of Europe’s largest legal sports betting operations. GVC is MGM Resorts International’s 50-50 partner in Roar Digital, which operates the BetMGM retail sportsbooks and a mobile sports wagering application. As with all IGI research completed for sponsors, GVC did not see the final report until it was released publicly last week. UNLV IGI Executive Director Bo Bernhard Bernhard suggested the report could be viewed as a companion piece to the IGI’s 2016 report, “Professional Team Sports in Las Vegas: What the Research Says”, which looked at legal sports betting in Nevada and how the activity would co-exist with a National Football League franchise. That year, the NFL approved the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. He noted that since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 that led to the expansion of legal sports betting, sportsbooks – both retail and mobile – are co-existing in several states with NFL teams, including Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and New Jersey (the New York Jets and New York Giants play their home games at the Meadowlands). The report reiterated that legalization and state regulation of sports betting protects the integrity of both professional sports and the gaming industry. Sports betting growth In addition to the 18 states where legal sports betting is currently offered at casinos, racetracks, and online, Washington D.C. legalized sports betting last year and currently offers a mobile-only product. Another four states have legalized sports betting but are still approving regulations and could launch this year. Bernhard said there are just seven states not considering legalization. In 2019, gamblers nationwide wagered more than $13 billion legally on sports, a figure that was easily on track to be crushed in 2020 until COVID-19 shut down all college and professional sports and the gaming industry. Bernhard said an analysis of sports betting and its recent growth is taking place in the United Kingdom, which has a long history with the activity. “The social impact is being looked at closely,” Bernhard said, emphasizing that some of the biggest soccer teams in Europe are sponsored by legal sports betting operations. “You can’t buy your favorite soccer team’s jersey without (seeing) a logo for a gambling company,” Bernhard said. “Is this good for younger fans?” Study’s findings The authors stated that stakeholders “are understandably concerned about underage gamblers because this constitutes an at-risk group.” The report outlined ways that technology has provided safeguards and suggests that policymakers enact the strongest precautions available. The authors also suggested a robust effort toward responsible gaming measures outlined by the U.S. National Council on Problem Gambling, best marketing practices in both the online and land-based gaming environments, and response to effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the legal gaming industry – both financially and with renewed efforts toward cashless gaming technology. GVC Foundation The organization was established as the arm of the company’s social responsibility initiatives. Trustees of the U.S. arm of the foundation include former New York Giants wide receiver Amani Toomer; Martin Lycka, director of regulatory affairs at GVC Holdings; and William J. Pascrell III, partner at Princeton Public Affairs Group and one of the nation’s leading experts on online gaming, sports betting, and lottery. “We must keep the playing field safe for all players,” Toomer said in a statement on the foundation’s website. “We’ll team up for top-notch educational bootcamps on gaming best practices, promote responsible gambling, and be there for those facing addiction.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.