The Importance of Further Refining Responsible Gambling Tools

The Importance of Further Refining Responsible Gambling Tools

By Susan Sheridan Tucker

In early March 2020, I attended the annual New Horizons Conference on Responsible Gambling. It’s a conference that always provides great insights and this year did not disappoint.

The theme was Future-Proofing the Gambling Industry, an aspirational goal where a gambling operator no longer makes money from those exhibiting problem gambling. This may seem like pie-in-the-sky, but several countries are taking steps through advancements in technology that enable them to better identify customers taking too many gambling risks and to engage them in conversations about risks and potential financial harm. We are seeing a subtle shift in the goals of responsible gambling from providing safeguards and prevention initiatives to supporting safer gambling for all, including reinforcing “ideal” consumer behaviors.

“Future-Proofing the Industry: Player Safeguards and Prevention”
There was much discussion about a paper by Judith Glynn of Strategic Science titled, “Future Proofing the Industry: Player Safeguards and Prevention.” The paper sparked conversation about the role of responsible gambling tools, how to make those tools more efficient and effective, and determining ways in which the risks can be identified and addressed. The paper called for greater cooperation between regulators, operators and players, recognizing each has an important role in determining the best ways to minimize the harms associated with gambling.

Some highlights of the paper include:

  • Establish the objective as making gambling safer for all players through education and awareness resources. This includes limit-setting tools, self-assessment tools and revising policies for on-site access to personal credit (ATMs, credit cards and limits on house credit, which ensures that the operator has ownership in the process).
  • Operators must take a direct role in keeping their players safe. They see firsthand the risky behavior in their customers and have the ability to understand their players’ playing activities and payment practices.
  • Operators can respond to a customer exhibiting risky behavior through well-designed messages and personal intervention with trained staff on the floor intervening when a customer escalates their risk levels.
  • Success in “future-proofing” will require cooperative efforts from operators, regulators and customers.

The issue that remains with responsible gambling programs is evidence showing that reliable and effective changes ensue in a customer’s behavior. While there is some evidence showing that responsible gambling tools create positive changes in behavior and reduce risk, the adoption rate of such tools is still too low. More work needs to be done to provide messaging that stimulates self-evaluation and personal relevance. Players need to receive messaging that instills autonomy and assists the player in their decision making.

Additionally, self-assessment tools must provide immediate results with personalized and actionable feedback. It’s equally important to respond to the risk as much as just identifying it. While self-assessment tools provide a window to communicate with players, more research is needed to evaluate its effectiveness on actual behavioral change.


New Trends in Youth Gambling Revealed by 2019 Minnesota Student Survey

New Trends in Youth Gambling Revealed by 2019 Minnesota Student Survey

Youth gambling behavior, as reflected in the Minnesota Student Survey (MSS), has been analyzed periodically since 1992. Information from the 2019 survey was recently analyzed by Randy Stinchfield, Ph.D., retired gambling researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Some of the more significant trends and findings from the latest survey data include:

  • For the majority of students, gambling participation has decreased significantly. When gambling items were first included in the MSS in 1992, youth gambling participation rates were 70%. However, now 70% represents the portion of youth who do not gamble.
  • The rate of problem gambling remains essentially unchanged from the last survey in 2016 (0.5%; an additional 2% report problems associated with their gambling).
  • Boys gamble more than girls (38.5% vs. 21.1%) and gamble more frequently than girls (9.7% vs. 3.4%).
  • Fewer students were gambling in 2019 than were gambling in 1992 (84% of boys in 1992 vs. 39% in 2019; 62% of girls in 1992 vs. 21% in 2019).
  • Fewer students were gambling frequently in 2019 than were gambling frequently in 1992 (23% of boys in 1992 vs. 10% in 2019; 6% of girls in 1992 vs. 3% in 2019).
  • Fewer underage students reported buying lottery products in 2019 than in 1992 (43% of boys in 1992 vs. 8% in 2019; 38% of girls in 1992 vs. 7% in 2019) A fact sheet highlighting the study findings and the full research study can be viewed at here.




We asked Dr. Stinchfield about the results of his analysis, what the findings suggest about youth gambling in Minnesota, and what future studies might entail.


Q: Why do you think that youth gambling, in general, has dropped so much?


A: It’s hard to know for sure as nobody has really studied this phenomenon. It’s probably due partially to prevention efforts in school but may also be a matter of changing interests over time. Back in 1992, gambling was new in Minnesota and may have been trendier among youth.

Q: What does the data suggest about future youth prevention efforts?


A: While prevention efforts have hopefully played a role in the decline, I think that future youth gambling prevention messaging can be focused on teaching youth about all aspects of gambling, including the odds involved and to dispel the myth of luck. I think the data also suggests that messaging should be focused on boys and certain minorities, including Native Americans, Hispanics and African Americans.


Q: Are we asking the right questions given the shift to electronic games and embedded gambling elements?


A: Yes and no. We want to continue to ask about common forms of gambling so that we can look at trends over time, but we should add new items that capture new forms of electronic gambling on smart phones.


Q: What do you think would be “best practices” from a survey perspective next time?


A: I’d like there to be more gambling items on the survey. We have tried to do this in the past but there are so many interests represented in the survey that there is limited space. The last survey included three questions related to problem gambling and four questions on participation. I would like there to be more questions about smart phone use, social media, e-sports and other items that some would consider gambling.

Positive Play Survey: Measuring Responsible Gambling in Minnesota

Positive Play Survey: Measuring Responsible Gambling in Minnesota

While much of the emphasis of problem gambling programs is on making sure that people with disordered gambling are able to find the help they need, it’s also important to understand the attitudes and beliefs of those who play responsibly.

Such insights can help inform policies and practices designed to prevent and reduce potential harms associated with gambling.

One of the ways to objectively identify and measure the extent of responsible play within a sample of players is through the positive play scale (PPS). The PPS looks at a gambler’s beliefs and behaviors and can be used by those in the gambling industry to assess the effectiveness of responsible gambling strategies, identify specific areas for future focus, and examine the potential value of new responsible gambling initiatives aimed at promoting healthy patterns of gambling.

With this in mind, NPGA commissioned Richard Wood, PhD, noted gambling researcher, to study the level of responsible gambling in Minnesota starting in September 2019. The study, which sampled 1,517 Minnesota players, will provide a benchmark so that future changes in responsible gambling behavior, as measured by the PPS, can be noted over time in response to prevention messaging targeted to players’ behaviors and beliefs.

The study measured two sets of beliefs: personal responsibility (the extent to which a player believes they should take ownership of their gambling behavior) and gambling literacy (the extent to which a player has an accurate understanding about the nature of gambling.) The survey also measured two sets of behaviors: honesty and control (extent to which players are honest with others about their gambling behavior and feel in control of their behavior) and pre-commitment (extent to which a player considers how much money and time they should spend gambling).

Most Minnesota players scored highest on personal responsibility, followed by honesty and control. However, more than half of all players scored medium or low on gambling literacy and pre-commitment. In fact, Minnesota’s pre-commitment scores were lower than those from three other states and Canada (which has invested more funds than the United States in responsible gambling initiatives over the last  10-plus years).

There were no significant differences in beliefs and behaviors based on gender. However, there were marked differences in PPS scores by age. While it’s not known why positive play increases systematically with age, it may have to do with overall exposure to responsible gambling messaging or that messaging is tailored to older people. The results show that the literacy rates are quite low among those aged 18-44, suggesting that better messaging can be developed for younger players.

As it relates to the various games people played, it was clear that those who limited themselves to lottery games had higher (better) PPS scores. Those who played a variety of games exhibited a lower PPS score, particularly for gambling literacy. It’s not clear if exposure to a range of games leads to decrements in positive play or whether those who do not hold positive play beliefs or engage in positive play behaviors are more apt to play multiple games more frequently.

Another key measurement was the relationship between positive play and satisfaction with gambling. Players were more satisfied with the gambling experience when they accepted personal responsibility for their gambling, were honest and in control about their gambling, and set limits on time and money spent. Surprisingly, gambling literacy did not correlate with player satisfaction. This was an unexpected finding and is something to be explored as we develop strategies. The results also suggest that segmentation is critical to understanding the responsible gambling needs of different players.

The insights provided by this study will help us design and target prevention messaging to specific kinds of players, including by age or type of play. If we are to succeed in reducing the overall harm that gambling can have on individuals and families, it makes sense to develop multiple strategies that help build knowledge around the risks involved.

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