The prevalence of gambling in jurisdictions where it is prohibited (notably sports betting) suggests the limitations of policies based on prohibition.When creating public policy, governments need to take into account the possibility that prohibition may result in driving gamblers to illegal or offshore operators with little regulation and little incentive to encourage responsible play. At the same time, they must also recognize both the risks of easy access to unregulated play and the cost of effective regulation.
Sports betting appears to come with a higher risk of problematic play than most other forms of gambling.However, we do not know the extent to which this is driven by the widespread availability of illegal, unregulated play. We also do not know to what extent the activity is inherently risky and to what extent individuals at risk (notably young males) are drawn to sports betting. It is apparent, however, that legal, regulated sports betting must include extensive and effective responsible play and addiction prevention measures.
The rapid expansion of sports betting combined with the risks associated with this activity require that its impact be carefully monitored.Efforts such as this report should be repeated on a regular basis so that any public health effects can be identified, and early and effective interventions be implemented.
The level of risky behavior among fantasy sports players is at least as high as, if not higher than, as that associated with traditional sports betting.This suggests a need for measures to ensure responsible play and reduce problematic play that are much greater than currently exist.
Young adults are at greater risk of problematic play than any other demographic segment.Prevention and awareness efforts need to place a greater emphasis on this population. At the same time, despite a perception of seniors as an at-risk population, the data suggest that they are at the lowest risk of any population segment.
There is no evidence that the risks of problematic gambling are affected by socio-economic status or by racial or ethnic background.
State lotteries have a critical role to play in problem gambling awareness and prevention.This is not because lottery players are at particular risk, but because almost all who gamble will, at some point, play the lottery. As such, the lottery provides greater access to a wider audience than all other gambling forms.
For virtually every gambling activity, those reporting frequent play are considerably less likely to practice positive play than those playing less frequently.This finding suggests that positive play messaging might best be focused on media and activities targeted at frequent players such as players clubs or VIP programs.
While the data from this survey point to factors that are associated with problematic play (notably age, type of betting, and, to a lesser extent, gender), we are far from understanding causal relationships.We also are unable to predict the degree to which young problematic gamblers will “age out” of their problems.
Gambling disorders continue to be highly misunderstood and stigmatized.Both factors likely contribute heavily to a reluctance to seek or recommend treatment. In addition, awareness of treatment resources is low. Greater efforts need to be made to convey the realities of problematic gambling, the effectiveness of treatment, and its availability.
This study, the first national survey of gambling in twenty years, points the way towards protecting public health and devising effective strategies to prevent gambling problems and improve the lives of those affected by it.As the United States undergoes the most massive expansion of legalized gambling in its history, it is critically important that governments, the gambling and gaming industry, and nongovernmental service providers come together to enact policies that maximize the benefits to society of legalized gambling while mitigating its potential harms. Future surveys will show the degree to which these goals have been accomplished.
For more information about NCPG and the full range of programs and services in Advocacy, Awareness and Assistance in problem gambling and responsible gambling, please visit www.ncpgambling.org. NCPG is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization funded by members and donors. NCPG receives no federal funding.