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December 8, 2023

State regulators meet with operators to discuss strengthening responsible gambling tools

The entrance of a large office building in an urban area Image | Courtesy of Google Maps 101 Federal St. in Boston, home of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission

Concerned about the tiny percentage of sports bettors who have so far used things like time or deposit limits, the Mass. Gaming Commission is working to convene a roundtable with operators, industry experts and more to talk about how they might be able to make responsible gambling tools "cool."

The commission received quarterly reports from all eight of its online sports betting licensees since late November, and those reports showed that the responsible gambling tools sportsbooks are required to provide -- like allowing gamblers to limit how much or how frequently they can bet, or letting bettors put themselves in a temporary "cool off" period -- are not being used by very many people.

Among users of DraftKings, which is the most popular mobile platform in Massachusetts based on total handle, less than 0.1 percent have used the time limit feature, 2.3 percent have set a deposit limit, 0.13 percent have restricted how much they can bet within a given amount of time, 0.4 percent have established a maximum wager, and 1.4 percent have used the "cool off" tool, the company reported.

"This was a very important piece of the application, we wanted to make sure that we had strong RG tools for individuals to use on their device. We know we share this with other jurisdictions, this is not novel. But really, these tools are very critical to this particular commission ... and I know that our director of research and responsible gaming has been concerned that the bettors just are not utilizing them," Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said at a late November meeting.

The topic resurfaced Thursday when the commission heard from additional operators. Judd-Stein reiterated a comparison she made in November, saying that she would like gamblers to think of RG tools the way skiers or cyclists think about helmets. "If you're a really great skier, you wear a ski helmet," she said.

Anthony D'Angelo, head of responsible gaming at Fanatics, said his company's research showed a general consensus among users that "RG tools are useful, but they were just not for them" and that "there's a stigma around the usage of tools."

Judd-Stein said the issue presents an opportunity for the commission bring operators, responsible gambling experts and others together for a roundtable "so that we can just keep on elevating that discourse and generate some good ideas."

"We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to destigmatize responsible gaming through the variety of tools that we offer in GameSense. And I think that this is a space that is ripe for us to be paying attention to," Mark Vander Linden, the commission's director of research and responsible gaming, said. He added, "This is definitely a top RG priority for us."

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