What US Gambling Operators’ 12-Point Pledge On Standards Means For Players


Gambling firms including FanDuel, BetMGM, DraftKings, Entain, Bally’s and MGM Resorts hit the headlines last week with a 12-point pledge to tackle problem gambling within the online industry.

The companies – many of whom have enjoyed soaring profits since the expansion of online casino legislation across America in 2018 – have also had to grapple with customer safety and security in these years too.

Not only are gambling firms taking on more responsibility for overseeing the account security of their customers, but they also need to be aware of the health issues that come with extreme forms of gambling addiction.

Because of this, the group has decided to come up with 12 pledges to help combat problem gaming in all its forms.

“While we operate in a highly competitive industry, we are proud to stand together with our colleagues to adopt these important principles,” said BetMGM chief legal officer Joshua Jessen.

But what are these pledges, and what do they actually mean for players who gamble online? Here, GO takes a deep dive into what to expect from the new initiative…

US gambling

Online casinos say they are in support of US gambling measures to prevent problem gambling

Four Core Attributes

Before we look at the 12 pledges themselves, it’s worth knowing that the list falls under the following four “core attributes” that the gambling firms have all signed up to.

These are:

  • We participate only in legal markets that provide consumer protections.
  • We strive to instill responsible gaming culture throughout our respective businesses.
  • All forms of online gaming should be a fun activity and enjoyed as a form of entertainment.
  • While the vast majority of individuals can enjoy online gaming in a responsible way, some individuals need additional tools and support related to their gaming activities.

This is nothing new. It’s the sort of umbrella attribute European gamers have witnessed for years. But it’s the detail of the 12-pledge manifesto that is of more substance for us…

casino games on phone

Ensuring player safety is paramount to the casino pledges

12 Point Online US Gambling Pledge

FanDuel VP of responsible gaming Adam Warrington didn’t hold back on ambition when he said recently: “Collectively, we have the privilege and opportunity to set the standard for what it means to be a responsible operator by leading from the front and collectively enabling our customers to enjoy our products, responsibly.”

So, FanDuel and the like are championing responsible gambling – and they should. And here are the 12 points they have come up with:

  1. We take active steps to prevent underage and excluded individuals from participating in any form of gaming within our products:
    Gambling under the age of 21 is currently illegal in all but a few states. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for online casinos and sportsbooks to bar underage players from downloading their apps or logging in under a false ID. And so, US mobile betting firms are investing more and more money into security and ID validation, in order to curb underage gambling.
  2. We help patrons make informed choices about their gaming. We provide easy-to-read information about how to play, provide responsible gaming tools including information on how to access and use such tools; and provide other related information, including information about a toll-free helpline, as well as resources for those who are seeking support related to their gaming:
    This is something that’s found on the majority of good online casino sites, but there is sometimes a reluctance from operators to put their messaging front-and-center. Indeed, some will only highlight their responsible gaming tools within drop-down menus, rather than on the home page, for example. Many operators can be much better in highlighting these resources.
  3. We support the adoption and effective promotion of a unified nationwide responsible gaming toll-free helpline:
    This is a good step, so long as it is properly funded. The UK and Italy have good examples of operator-funded helplines run by charities. ‘Effective promotion’ also needs to be more than simply a phone number at the bottom of a website. 
  4. We abide by applicable standards of socially responsible advertising, including compliance with all applicable state and federal laws and standards, and we avoid using minors in marketing content. We only use actors and company representatives in advertising and social media relating to gaming who reasonably appear to be above the legal age to gamble:
  5. This is a hugely important pledge because there are perpetual issues around online advertising and how easily it can be seen by underage people. The burst of sports betting commercials and branding on game day in the NFL, MLB, and NBA means kids are more likely than ever to see sports betting promotions. This normalizes gambling for minors, who are then more likely to grow up with a warped sense of the industry. Each state sets its own gambling advertising standards.
  6. We provide our customers with tools to play responsibly, including but not to limited to self-exclusion tools, financial and other account limits as well as customer betting histories:
    There was some pushback in Europe when the idea of online limitation tools surfaced 10 years ago. But it’s a smart initiative that helps protect the player as much as the casino or sportsbook. Giving the player the option to self-limit or even self-exclude themselves from betting gives can help them beat addiction or falling into financial hardship. However, some operators have recently been fined for failing in this capacity. Sky Betting and Gaming were fined $1.5m for sending promotional emails to 41,395 players customers who had self-excluded.
  7. We abide by all self-exclusion rules and regulations, and provide resources to individuals who make the choice to self-exclude:
    As mentioned above, signing up to self-exclusion rules doesn’t prevent an operator from accidentally making mistakes. What it does do, however, is ensure there is a greater argument for punishing them if they do make mistakes, such as emailing self-excluded individuals. Sadly, it is often a commitment that requires people to hold operators to account.
  8. We encourage patrons to set a budget that they can afford to and never play beyond their means, and not view gaming as a means to financial success:
    While setting a budget is always smart, merely ‘encouraging’ patrons to never play beyond their means isn’t effective unless operators explicitly include this messaging in promotional material. We shall wait, then, to see if this pledge properly sees the light of day.
  9. We encourage patrons to set time and financial limits on their gaming and stick to them, not to chase losses:
    Again, this is a sensible pledge and something that all gamblers – big or small – should be encouraged to do. But the skeptics will question how readily available this messaging is. For example, how many times are players told to stick within their limits during a sports betting broadcast? Not many.
  10. We believe in a shared responsibility approach to addressing problem gaming and are committed to working with policymakers, academic experts and researchers, problem gaming treatment organizations, advocacy groups, and our partners as well as with our customers to promote responsible gaming and address problem gaming:
    Again, a fairly noble sentiment but not anything that wouldn’t be expected from a gambling or sports betting company. They have to work with ‘policymakers, academic experts and researchers, problem gaming treatment organizations, advocacy groups, and our partners’ otherwise changes cannot be made to the online gambling industry.
  11. We support funding for evidence-based problem and responsible gaming research:
    This is a great first step toward improving responsible gambling. Companies in the UK – such as Flutter, which are also based in the US – have invested millions into responsible gaming research. The aim is to ensure customers enjoy their play and don’t go beyond their limits. Unibet, another gaming firm, has pledged to cut its revenues from problem gambling to zero by 2023.
  12. We provide all applicable employees with responsible gaming training upon hire and regularly thereafter, in order to embed responsible gaming culture in our businesses:
    It will be interesting to see how each gambling company provides this ‘responsible gambling training’. Training courses are readily available that meet US standards for all staff in customer-facing positions who need to be aware of problem gaming. Investing in staff is always a good step.
  13. We are committed to evaluating and continuously monitoring our respective responsible gaming programs and initiatives:
    This is another positive step. Gaming firms realize they can’t just release a statement and then forget about it. However, the extent to which the monitoring process will have an effect on later decision making of course remains to be seen. For now, we’ll have to trust the operators will stick to their pledge.

In all, this is a small step in the right direction for America’s big online gambling companies. In fact, what’s perhaps most important from an industry standpoint is that the companies are forming something of a unified front with this. Everyone is responsible for reducing harmful, underage, and illegal gambling.

But critics may also claim that the companies are merely paying lip service here, in order to look as though they’re doing something proactive to fighting addiction. Issues such as advertising gambling and normalizing sports betting for minors is one that must be taken seriously.

The proof of whether these 12 pledges have been successful will come in future years. America is still experiencing a boom of online sports betting, as the country opens up state by state. The full impact of this – both from a community health perspective, and from revenues generated through taxes – is yet to be fully analyzed.

But the pledges are, at the very least, a progressive step.

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