Gambling Addiction Prevention Group Issues Guidelines For Legislation

The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is taking the matter of sports betting – which appears to be months, if not days away from being legal nationwide – very seriously.

In light of the possible April 2 reveal of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act of 1992 (PASPA) to be unconstitutional, the NCPG isn’t pulling any punches as it expects a massive uptick in gambling activity. Just in time for Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the Council on March 29 released a series of guidelines for lawmakers (and the lobbying arms of the major sports leagues) to consider as they work together to craft some mutually beneficial sports betting legislation. If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down PASPA, thereby making the practice of wagering on sports legal pretty much everywhere in the country instead of limiting it essentially to the Las Vegas Strip, the NCPG doesn’t want considerations for individuals struggling with gambling addiction to be left off the table.

Keith Whyte, who heads up the NCPG’s outreach efforts, went on the record as saying that the Council, which is composed of stakeholders from advocacy groups around the country, recognizes the seemingly imminent potential of a “seismic change” in the sports betting and broader gambling industry as a whole. That’s why the board put together what Whyte called a “30,000-foot-level” approach to what they would like to see in idealized piece of sports betting legislation last year, and that initial broad strokes effort was widely accepted by analysts as a common sense approach of actionable steps. However, as a SCOTUS decision in the New Jersey case to strike down PASPA could be coming any day now, Whyte and the NCPG came out with their more targeted approach designed to “drill down one level” for the benefit of the legislators looking to regulate sports betting. This is especially intended for use in those states that don’t already have a regulatory structure in place.

Gambling Addiction Prevention Group Issues Guidelines For LegislationThere are five basic components of the NCPG’s newest round of guidelines, and they all seem to be pretty straightforward if not exactly easy to accomplish in concert with the strictures of budgetary concerns of every state interested in regulated sports betting. The NCPG is first and foremost calling for any regulatory framework for sports betting set aside “dedicated funds” to prevent and treat gambling addiction, but the board also wants to require sportsbook operators to set aside moneys for extensive employee training about “self-exclusion” best practices. Also included in that lump sum is cutouts for limits on time and money spent gambling and the requirement for “specific inclusion” of help and prevention messaging in any external marketing put out by the would be sportsbook operators.

The other three requests found in the guideline are a little bit easier to swallow. The NCPG wants a designated regulatory agency to enforce whatever regs and requirements sports books are expected to follow as decided on at the state by state level, including a consistent (meaning national) minimum age for sports betting and “related fantasy games.” The board is also asking for surveys into the prevalence of gambling addition to be conducted that take into account the pre-nationwide legalization situation as well at regular intervals after legalization occurs – that is so that the above regulatory bodies can have the data they need to support gambling addiction mitigation efforts.

Whyte himself has said that the price tag associated with implementing these specific points could pose a problem for lawmakers going forward. His actual words were that the “upfront costs are daunting.” Unfortunately for the lawmakers and lobbyists that might agree with these counter-problem gambling guidelines in spirit, the NCPG by its own admission does not provide any schema for acquiring these apparently large but necessary funds to go along with the rough draft plan for allocating that money. However, the accompanying documents do ask for 1 percent of net sports betting revenue to be used for the purposes as laid out in the guidelines.

Particulars aside, the core purpose behind the NCPG’s guidelines is, like always, sticking closely to the hot button issues of the responsibility shared by the various parties involved in sports betting. The states that want more tax revenues, the leagues that want a cut of the action off the top, the gambling operators that want another product to offer consumers and even the individual gamblers themselves all bear this responsibility, the NCPG says. Furthermore, Whyte intoned his belief that the “only ethical and economical way” to get the most positive good out of sports betting is to actively work to minimize the negative aspects that can be part and parcel of the activity.

Overall, the time frame in which the NCPG released this new round of ground level guidelines could not be more appropriate, as almost 20 states are in the middle of active campaigns to get sports betting legalized within their jurisdictions. If passed, those various laws coming out of states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, West Virginia, California and many others, would take effect immediately upon PASPA being struck down or declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. What’s more, several of the aforementioned states, particularly those with already well developed and strong gambling markets are currently in a position to accept sports wagers were PASPA not still the law of the land.

That last fact has got the major professional sports leagues in a tizzy, as for years they were in lock step with each other in their disapproval for widely legalized sports wagering, though in recent years they have variously softened or come to realize the looming inevitability of legalization. The senior leadership of the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball in particular have begun taking an especially active role in lobbying the states to adopt legislation that is friendly to the leagues themselves and serves their interests – it’s their product that gets bet on, after all, so it isn’t unreasonable to expect a kickback. The NCPG release said the MLB in particular has sought out the Board’s assistance in putting together this newest list of guidelines aimed at preventing and treating individuals with problem gambling, a move Whyte said reflects the seriousness with which the leagues are considering potential fallout from broadly legal sports betting.

He said the leagues are “taking responsibility for the problem” of sports gambling addiction by requesting (really more like demanding) an “integrity fee” in their own blueprints for ideal sports betting regulatory legislation. This money (which could come in at tens of billions of dollars annually, as it represents 1 percent of total handle or roughly 20 percent of annual gross revenues) would be uses – presumably – to protect the sports leagues that attract the majority of the sports betting public from rampant cheating scandals. The NCPG guidelines are, in a way, the flip side to this coin: everybody is looking for their own slice of that multi-hundred billion dollar pie under the guise of protect their interest group.

Nobody said getting this pro-sports betting movement off the ground wouldn’t be a gamble, so maybe these are just the cards we have been dealt. Now all that is left it to see how the SCOTUS justices feel about PASPA and how all the interested parties play together when it comes to making the laws to regulate legal sports betting sites across the country. The NCPG guidelines are just another piece of that puzzle.

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