I am all for responsible gambling. I mean, it’s not exactly something someone can be against.
“I think every human alive should gamble until they go bankrupt and the sportsbooks control all the cash in the known universe,” said no one ever, probably not even the sportsbook CEOs themselves.
So we’re all in agreement, yeah? Responsible gambling = good.
But how far we go with this is definitely in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure some of you believe it should solely be up to the individual when it comes to responsible gambling. If someone wants to bet until their eyes bleed, who are we to tell them otherwise?
Others, I’m sure, are on the opposite end of the spectrum, thinking operators owe it to their customers to be on top of them, doing everything humanly possible to keep gamblers’ heads well above water.
Honestly, you can count me in the latter category. I think sportsbooks should do everything they can possibly do to help people who might be exhibiting problem gambling behaviors. They should do this because we’re all in this together, we’re all human, we all live in a society, kumbaya and shizz.
Of course, there’s also a colder reason to do so: Once someone goes kaputzee, they don’t have any money left to gamble with.
New Jersey, new rules
New Jersey — where I live — has taken things to the next level, announcing last week a new program that is mandating that sportsbooks use hard data, and not just observation, to help spot problem gambling behaviors and that those potentially problematic gamblers be contacted.
It’s unclear in the press release — and questions to the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement went unanswered — as to who, exactly, will be conducting the outreach to perceived problem gamblers.
At any rate, the data to be looked at includes people who gamble more week over week, people who bet until they have a dollar or less in their accounts, people who visit the exclusion sites, people who take “cooling off” periods, people who all of a sudden make a big deposit, and players who request higher limits.
The first step is an automated phone call, step two is the player has to watch a video about problem gambling before they are allowed to continue, and step three will have the operators reach out directly to the gambler.
“This new approach will enable dedicated responsible gaming experts employed by the platforms and us to see the early warning signs and reach at-risk patrons before they find themselves in a financial catastrophe.”
– David Rebuck, NJDGEhttps://t.co/XHZ1jBcgDM @jeffedelstein
— US Bets (@US_Bets) February 7, 2023
Please note I regularly hit a few of the targeting items above, and I have yet to receive my phone call. (For the record, it’s because I’m arbitrage betting and need to move money around. But, still, based on the criteria, I should’ve gotten my phone call already.)
This program — billed as a first-of-its-kind in the nation — comes at a time when the national media has itself in a tizzy about Americans all of a sudden being able to take the Celtics laying three points from their smartphones.
The boom in online sports betting has, predictably, led to an increase in problem gambling. I mean, that makes sense. Hardly seems worth the breathless coverage, but OK.
But here’s the thing: While I am all for the operators doing whatever they can do to help stem the flow of problem gamblers, I’m not too keen on the state itself being the one to impose the rules.
At the risk of sounding like a guy who has a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag hanging off his front porch … well, don’t tread on me. Please. M’kay?
Leave my data be
Coming out against the state trying to help its citizens — and I do truly believe that’s all New Jersey authorities are doing here — isn’t exactly a positive way to look at the world. I get that.
But … when we sign up for sportsbook accounts, we are giving away data rights, and now the state is mandating the operators use this data to track the way we — very legally — gamble. And while this, in and of itself, is probably fine, I don’t like the Trojan Horse nature of it all.
I mean, first sportsbooks, then what? What is the next thing the state is going to start tracking and then sticking its nose in?
I have the McDonald’s app on my phone. If you eat McDonald’s, it’s a great app. Tons of freebies. I have three kids, and they eat McDonald’s. They don’t have the McDonald’s app. Obviously, the app is tied to my name and so …
“Jeff, hi, this is the state calling, our data shows you ate three Big Macs last week, and we just want to make sure you’re OK.“ … “Jeff, hi, this is the state calling, and we’re going to have to ask you to watch this video about the dangers of obesity before you’re allowed to buy some McNuggets.“ … “Ding-dong, hi Jeff, my name is Ronald McDonald. May I come in?”
Fine. Scoff. Tell me I’m being ridiculous. I probably am. But, really, if the people — ahem, The People — decide something is legal, then I would prefer the state — ahem, The State — stay the (bleep) out of my personal choices with said legal item.
Is it so far-fetched to see a world where alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana are monitored like this? Pornography, fast food, television watching? Exercise, driving too fast, Starbucks consumption?
Again, I know I’m being a tad hysterical here, taking this gambling initiative and transposing it upon every other real or imagined vice, but still — give the government an inch, they’re liable to take a mile. Slippery slopes never start out looking particularly gruesome.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go restock my bunker and claim both the 2016 and the 2020 elections were stolen while monitoring the so-called Chinese balloon phenomenon and how it’s all about the chemtrails while simultaneously helping my pal Goldberg with his space laser project. BRB.