Gambling has both benefits and well-documented negative consequences. Internet gambling is no exception. It is clear that some who gamble online will develop problems and that these problems are serious. The most ethical and cost-effective response to gambling addiction issues raised by internet gambling is a comprehensive public health strategy that includes prevention, education, treatment, enforcement and research services. Responsible gaming standards are an important aspect of this approach.
The guidelines outline essential age verification, player information, self-exclusion and data and customer assistance provisions. These guidelines were based on NCPG’s best-practice Internet Responsible Gambling Standards and adapted specifically for the fantasy sports industry. The guidelines were approved by the NCPG Board of Directors on December 4, 2015.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has developed these standards to help guide discussions among all stakeholders on internet gambling, including operators, regulators, advocates and the public.
The standards contain specific recommendations in the areas of policy, staff training, informed decision-making, assisting players, self-exclusion, advertising and promotion, game and site features, and working with research.
NCPG reviewed current internet responsible gaming codes and regulations from around the world (see Appendix A) to guide the development of this standard. The final recommendations in this document flow from our 40 years of experience in problem gambling issues, existing international codes (in particular the Responsible Gambling Council’s draft internet gambling standards), empirical evidence and feedback from experts in the field including operators, regulators, researchers, clinicians and advocates. We have also considered Federal laws governing the online purchase of age-controlled products like alcohol and tobacco. The NCPG standard is a work in progress as internet gambling-related legislation, regulation and technology continue to evolve rapidly. The graphical and interactive structure of the internet provides an opportunity to create informed consumers with access to a variety of information designed to encourage safe choices and discourage unsafe behavior, including through setting personal limits and self-excluding. These programs can be improved by requiring operators to make de-identified play data (e.g., demographic, session, game and transaction data) publicly available. Analyzing actual player behavior leads to better understanding of gambling and problem gambling.
It is strongly recommended that operators and regulators consult with experts in the problem gambling field during the development and implementation of internet gambling. Problem gambling, like other diseases of addiction, will likely never be eliminated, but we must make better efforts to mitigate the damage. A portion of all gambling revenue must be dedicated to reduce the social costs of gambling addiction.
In spring 2014, NCPG commissioned Gambling Compliance to conduct a first-ever public survey of online responsible gaming regulations, finding states are off to a good start but still short of best practice.
Version 3: October 21, 2013
Social games with casino themes are among the fastest growing segments of the game industry. Yet significant uncertainly remains about the definitions and risks. Indeed, many social game developers and operators, including major gaming companies, argue that social games do not meet the definition of gambling and therefore requires no regulation. NCPG does not take an opinion on the legality of social games or whether they should be regulated.
NCPG believes that consumer protection standards are important as it is likely that some users of social games with casino themes may experience negative consequences. Operators benefit by protecting a significant source of revenue, providing good customer service and engaging with regulators and legislators in a positive manner. Regulators have an obligation under the “precautionary principle” to protect the public especially when faced with a brand new and fast-growing gambling-like activity. Organizations like the National Council have a duty to advocate for consumer protection.
Many social games with casino themes utilize features that are regulated, prohibited or not possible in regulated gaming environments. Some of these features are argued by some to contribute to greater risk of problem gambling. They include high frequency and speed of play, lack of minimum age policy and enforcement, “opaque” game mechanics, no specific oversight or consumer protection, unclear differentiation between social and “real money” games, among others.
The intent of the standards is to facilitate discussions about consumer protection among operators, regulators, legislators, consumer advocates and the public. While it is likely that many social games encourage lengthy play, our focus is placed on social games with casino themes that are free-to-play but have ways in which the consumer can spend real money. As noted, some argue that it is likely that some users are currently or at-risk for gambling addiction, and that as a result they may spend excessive amounts of time and money on social games with casino themes, leading to negative consequences.
As with internet gambling, the graphical and interactive structure of the social media provides an opportunity to create informed consumers with access to a variety of information designed to encourage safe choices and discourage unsafe behavior. Some game features could be utilized to promote responsible play, such as granting coins for setting voluntary limits, or for reading through the educational information.
These guidelines are a work in progress as social gambling continues to rapidly. As we collect more information on actual player behavior we will be able to further determine what, if any, consumer protection and regulation is necessary. We encourage the social game developers and operators to work with NCPG to provide this data. We encourage feedback and comment and believe all stakeholders have an interest in reducing possible harms from social games with casino themes.