The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) had a significant win on the responsible gambling (RG) front during its 2023 summer meeting in July. Shawn Fluharty, Minority Whip in the West Virginia House of Delegates, was instrumental in making it happen.
Fluharty, a representative from Wheeling, is the NCLGS president-elect and spoke out about states needing to come together and take a proactive approach toward addressing gambling addiction and problem gambling behaviors.
To do this, states needed to establish standards around responsible gambling, allowing them to make a coordinated effort and provide resources to one another where needed.
The NCLGS 16-point responsible gambling resolution plan
During the summer meeting, more than 50 legislators, regulators and other industry professionals discussed RG-related topics and proposed solutions where they saw fit. The NCLGS published a press release from the meetings saying that its members unanimously approved a 16-point plan with suggestions focusing on four key areas.
- One accredited national problem gambling helpline number within all jurisdictions.
- State or jurisdictional advertising guidelines to ensure that marketing is targeted only to those who are of legal age to gamble, that marketing follows standards not to offer content, themes and promotions that have special appeal to those consumers most at risk for gambling problems, and to ensure there are programs that audit and monitor the content of third-party marketing affiliates.
- Policies and programs that enable customers to discontinue their play temporarily or permanently through exclusion programs from gaming activities statewide and across multiple jurisdictions with multiple term lengths.
- Coordination of gambling exclusion lists to prevent people with gambling problems and others on exclusion lists from problematic play in other states.
The entirety of the resolution can be found at the NCLGS website.
NCLGS leaders send a clear message
NCLGS president, Sen. Jon Ford of Indiana, led the effort to develop these standards and oversaw the vote to make them official.
Ford recognized NCLGS members for taking critical steps to leverage and share their states’ solutions. It is the only organization of lawmakers meeting to discuss legal gambling issues, a growing need as gambling continues to expand while being regulated at the state level.
Fluharty echoed Ford’s comments, adding the importance of responsible gambling and protecting vulnerable citizens in a growing economy.
“The extraordinary, ongoing expansion of gaming into new forms across multiple states demands that lawmakers take necessary steps to protect their most vulnerable citizens. This resolution will help them meet that critical goal.”
NCLGS vice president, Christie Carpino of Connecticut, also spoke on the matter.
“Addressing problem gambling is at the top of the agenda for all of us at NCLGS. We urge all states that offer gaming to consider the guidance offered in this historic resolution.”
Like other gambling organizations, the NCLGS maintains a neutral stance on gambling, instead focusing on educating legislators on relevant matters for proper industry regulation.
While its proposed standards hold no legally-binding weight, they are a tangible and concrete step in the right direction.
Responsible gambling resources in West Virginia
West Virginia offers among the most gambling options in the US, including retail and online casino gambling, sports betting, horse racing and lottery.
Many West Virginians take part in these games responsibly and recreationally. However, around 1% to 2% of all gamblers exhibit problem gambling behaviors that can affect their mental, emotional, physical and financial well-being – and their loved ones.
The Mountain State offers numerous services through its regulatory body, the West Virginia Lottery. These include signage about responsible behaviors, access to self-exclusion options and strict enforcement of underage gambling.
Other resources include the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR)’s Compulsive Gambling Treatment Fund, which receives between $150,000 and $500,000 in yearly contributions from gaming operations. All funds focus on supporting problem gambling initiatives.
Lastly, the West Virginia Gaming and Racing Association (WVGRA) requires its members to focus on RG as a core value. Four of WV’s five casinos are members, the privately-owned Greenbrier the lone exception.
Nationwide support includes the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), which focuses on preventing, diagnosing, intervention methods and treatment strategies for individuals with gambling problems.
Resources in West Virginia include:
- The Problem Gamblers Help Network of West Virginia website and Helpline at 1-800-426-2537
- The National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700
- Gambler’s Anonymous
- National Center for Responsible Gambling
- National Council on Problem Gambling, Inc.
Pennsylvania provides more problem gambling footsteps to follow
Pennsylvania is one of the largest legal gambling markets in the nation, and it understands the gravity of RG in its bustling environment.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has enacted laws to normalize the recognition and treatment of compulsive and problem gambling behaviors. It runs a 24/7, free and confidential helpline and provides a wealth of information on how everyone can enjoy gambling safely and responsibly.
Similar to the recent NCLGS standards, the PGCB provides 10 rules for gambling responsibly.
- If you choose to gamble, do so for entertainment purposes. If your gambling is no longer an enjoyable activity, then ask yourself why you are still “playing.”
- Treat the money you lose as the cost of your entertainment. Treat any winnings as a bonus.
- Set a dollar limit and stick to it. Decide before you go not only what you can “afford” to lose, but how much you want to spend. Do not change your mind after losing.
- Set a time limit and stick to it. Decide how much of your time you want to allow for gambling. Leave when you reach the time limit whether you are winning or losing.
- Expect to lose. The odds are that you will lose.
- Make it a private rule not to gamble on credit. Do not borrow money to gamble.
- Create balance in your life. Gambling should not interfere with or substitute for friends, family, work or other worthwhile activities.
- Avoid “chasing” lost money. Chances are the more you try to recoup your losses, the larger your losses will be.
- Don’t gamble as a way to cope with emotional or physical pain. Gambling for reasons other than entertainment can lead to problems.
- Become educated about the warning signs of problem gambling. The more you know, the better choices you can make.