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September is the AGA’s Responsible Gambling Month in the U.S.A., and, in this four part review, Bernard Aquilina, Enteractive‘s Responsible Gaming & Compliance Manager, looks at best practices and shifting regulations in various global markets.

The Rise of iGaming in the U.S. and the Trend Towards Stricter Regulations

Since 2022 and the early months of 2023, the iGaming industry in the United States has observed a shift in the legislative landscape. Massachusetts, Ohio, Kansas, and Maryland have joined the growing list of states that have legalized iGaming. Additionally, states like Maine and Kentucky have greenlit sports betting, with the official implementation still in the pipeline. On the ground level, local online bookmakers are eagerly anticipating the start of the license application process, ready to offer their services to a broader clientele.

A significant influence on this changing dynamic is the stringent regulatory momentum witnessed in Ontario, Canada. Developments in this region appear to be guiding the U.S. towards adopting more rigorous controls within the iGaming industry. The implication for online casino and gambling operators is clear: they need to tread with caution. Especially when it comes to crafting and advertising their bonus offers. Any slip can lead to hefty fines, not to mention the potential damage it could cause to their reputation.

States are becoming more vigilant, implementing firm rules on offers, demanding transparent terms and conditions, and even putting a ban on “free bets.” As the U.S. iGaming market becomes more mature, discussions are leaning towards the establishment of a federal regulatory system. The primary concern is that the current regulations, being state-specific, fail to provide comprehensive oversight across the entire market.

Nevertheless, operators and the industry in general have received a good report card from the AGA when it comes to responsible gaming efforts, with the regulatory body noting that “the gaming industry’s full efforts to promote responsible gaming and address problem gambling go well beyond the legal requirements”.  They elaborate that “the majority of gaming operators and suppliers voluntarily implement responsible gaming programs with measures that expand upon what is formally mandated by law or regulation”.

A Deeper Dive into RG & Compliance

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) has also taken a pivotal role in this arena by introducing the Internet Responsible Gambling Standards. This initiative seeks to bridge the gap and facilitate dialogues between various stakeholders in the internet gambling space – from operators and regulators to advocates and the general public.

A comprehensive review of global internet-responsible gambling codes and regulations served as the foundation for these standards. Over its five decades of involvement, NCPG has been at the forefront of addressing problem gambling-related challenges. The standards introduced reflect the organization’s in-depth engagement and are a product of an exhaustive study of global codes. A notable mention here is the preliminary internet gambling standards by the Responsible Gambling Council, which played a significant role. The final recommendations also draw from observed evidence and insights given by a broad spectrum of experts in the field, which includes operators, regulatory bodies, researchers, healthcare professionals, and advocates.

The current version of the NCPG Internet Responsible Gambling Standards offers a comprehensive view, outlining 39 specific policies distributed across nine different topics. These range from responsible gambling policies, staff training, to game and website features, and even touch upon research and payment modalities.

One of the salient points under these standards is the Policy Commitment To Responsible Gambling. It mandates licensees to prominently display their commitment to responsible gaming on a dedicated patron protection page. Another key highlight is the provision for Evaluation and Progress Reporting. While it doesn’t enforce an annual review, it emphasizes a detailed independent review at least once every five years. This review is aimed at assessing the adherence of each master wagering licensee to responsible play norms. Importantly, this review is to be conducted by a third-party agency approved by the department, ensuring impartiality and adherence to industry benchmarks.

As the iGaming industry continues to flourish in the U.S., such guidelines and regulations will play a crucial role in ensuring the sector grows responsibly, keeping the best interests of the public in mind.